Veg4Reading was set up as an emergency response to the Coronavirus crisis last year and provided over 1 tonne of fresh fruit and veg that had been grown, collected and shared with hundreds of families and others badly affected by the crisis. But with many people still struggling on reduced incomes, basic food parcels continue to provide a lifeline for many people in Reading. Thanks to funding from the Co-operative and Berkshire Community Foundation, Veg4Reading is now aiming to double the amount of fresh fruit and veg it provides for those in need in the current year.
Michele Atkins, who is helping coordinate the project, explains: “Existing Food4Familes community vegetable gardens were able to extend their growing areas, dozens of amazing volunteers came forward to help with growing and harvesting and allotment holders generously donated their own produce. All this was collected up on a weekly basis and delivered to the community organisations who were already providing food parcels for those in need. The fresh fruit and veg provided a welcome and healthy supplement to the basic foodstuffs and we created lots of opportunities for people who wanted to get out and help out in their communities at a time of crisis.”
Alongside the dozens of volunteers who stepped up to get involved in 2020, many more got involved early this year growing seeds at home to be planted out in the community gardens, including a local school and Scout Group. A parent of one of the scouts that took part said: “They loved growing the seeds and were excited that the food they produced will help other people.”
Veg4Reading is already reaping the harvest from this community effort with the first collections and deliveries of produce from the gardens being made this week, including broad beans, lettuces, peas, broccoli, radishes and herbs delivered to organisations such as New Beginnings, Reading Red Kitchen and the Weller Centre.
To help meet ongoing needs by doubling donated produce, Veg4Reading volunteers are cultivating a new allotment plot at Ardler Road in Caversham. More allotment sites have signed up to donate their surplus to the project too, so look out for the donation points at your local allotment. If you would like to get your allotment site involved then please see the contact information below.
If you would like to help us reach our target of growing 2 tonnes of produce this year and have a couple of hours to spare each week please email email@example.com. No previous growing skills are required as experienced tutors and others will be on hand to provide guidance and support at weekday and weekend sessions in community gardens across town.
More information at www.food4families.org.uk and on the Veg4Reading Facebook page.