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Middlesbrough charity helps residents go from ‘plot to plate.’

Barefoot Kitchen has helped families grow their own food through the ‘Get Growing’ community project with a £4,498 grant from County Durham Community Foundation’s Covid-19 Fund.

The social enterprise works with families and individuals through allotment and cooking and sharing projects: with a ‘plot to plate’ ethos that helps people take back control over their food choices and diet.

Using Middlesbrough’s first community market garden site as a place to bring people together, the project has gone from strength to strength

Stronger communities

Barefoot Kitchen is part of Middlesbrough’s Food Partnership, a collaboration that tackles food poverty and encouraged communities to use local produce. Obesity and a lack of physical exercise have been identified by the Partnership as a pressing concern.

The grant allowed the group to support local households around the site to take their first steps in growing their own food. Starting at home, and then joining the project’s market garden to work alongside others.

Catherine Boyle, from Barefoot Kitchen, said “We delivered an initial microgreen growing kit to a local family, who was referred by their ward councillor.

“The household was mam, dad and three children, living locally to the Fig Alleys site and in an area known as experiencing higher levels of deprivation.

“The family often struggled through school holidays with activities and food anyway, but had had a tough time during the first lockdown.

“Through a socially distanced door-step conversation, they told us how much they loved growing the microgreens and hadn’t done anything like it before.

“The were struggling with their son’s diet as he would not eat anything green, but he loved watching the microgreens grow.  He found a love of trimming them to put on everyone’s meals, including his own, especially on spaghetti bolognaise.”

Activities were focussed in two main areas – home food growing and growing within a community setting.

Home-grown fun

Growing food at home was encouraged during the three lockdowns and when restrictions encouraged people to stay local.

By providing small starter kits that could be used at home, the project encouraged people to explore their outdoor spaces and get interested in cooking and healthy eating.

The kits included seed trays, compost, seeds, a watering can and instructions.

Barefoot Kitchen supported the families with regular contact, mainly by email, but also text and telephone call check-ins. They then shared recipes to help people get their harvest onto the dinner table.

The final stage of the project was to encourage families to make the transition from home growing to working on an allotment or shared space.

For those wanting to take up this option, Barefoot Kitchen created ‘microplots’ at the Fig Alleys site. The project built, filled and planted one metre square beds and taught basic gardening skills.

The families involved then helped build a greenhouse so that growing could carry on year-round.

Catherine added: “We then delivered a pea growing kit which was received with enthusiasm. The children have been picking fresh pea pods to eat, learning how to harvest, and gaining awareness of seasonal food and production.

“This project helped address needs of poor physical and mental wellbeing, social isolation and loneliness, and multi-ethnicity community cohesion in the area.”

(3) Good Health and Wellbeing (4) Quality Education (10) Reduced Inequalities

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