Accolade for volunteer project reducing food insecurity

    Grow,Share, Cook, Plymouth's volunteering scheme which provides free locally-grown food for the benefit of families in Plymouth was declared ‘exemplary’ by the leader of the original project in New York during a fact-finding visit.

    Grow, Share, Cook sees volunteers grow fresh produce for fruit and veg boxes which are delivered free to families who need them most, along with help to prepare and cook healthy, nutritious meals.

    It began four years ago, when Plymouth bid successfully to become one of seven UK Cities of Service, based on a project launched by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the United States which enables volunteers to tackle issues such as poverty and isolation.

    It is run by Plymouth City Council, Plymouth Community Homes, Food is Fun CIC and Tamar Grow Local. In turn, Tamar Grow Local works in partnership with Livewell Southwest, the health and social care social enterprise, to provide opportunities for volunteers to learn to grow fruit and vegetables at CROP gardens.

    CROP is a garden, nursery and salad growing facility at which Livewell provides horticultural therapy for people including those who have had experience with mental illness.  The Grow, Share, Cook project uses produce from this scheme to contribute to the vegetables that go into the veg bags.

    On Wednesday, Mauricio Garcia, programme lead for Cities of Service US, visited CROP to see the scheme at work.

    Councillor Dave Downie, Cabinet Member for Safer and Stronger Communities said: “Mauricio came to CROP following a UK conference, before he heads back to New York. He looked round, met everyone, even packed some bags with us. He said he was astonished at what we have achieved here, and said it was an exemplar of what Cities of Service should be.

    “It was wonderful to have the opportunity to talk to him and to get such positive feedback.”

    Prof Steve Waite, chief executive of Livewell Southwest, said: “We place great value on our involvement with CROP. It brings all the benefits of learning new skills, fresh air and exercise, socialising and being part of a team to people with a wide range of mental health conditions.

    “Added to that, knowing that they are helping people in need enjoy fresh, healthy produce through the Grow, Share, Cook scheme gives them an invaluable sense of self-worth and involvement.”