Transcript - Inspiring Communities & Food Resilience with Jamie from Thurrock Food Network (Ep 11)
You are listening to Constellations, the community podcast connecting charities, communities & causes in the two unitaries of Thurrock & Southend. In today’s episode we chat to Jamie about Thurrock Food Network.
Thurrock Food Network was born from the coronavirus lockdown, when there was a huge sense of community spirit throughout the UK, and here in Thurrock many groups, individuals and businesses contributed what they could to support their local communities. This growing network helps individuals in Thurrock to access food, resources and more, as well as providing an amazing sign-posting service to the projects, charities and groups in Thurrock. Let’s get started!
Sharen: So Jamie, the Food Network coordinator at Thurrock CVS has joined us today, so welcome, Jamie.
Jamie: Thank you.
Sharen: Can you tell us about your role as Thurrock’s Food Network Coordinator and what it entails?
Jamie: Yes. So the role came out of the first lockdown when we had something called TCCA, which is the Thurrock Coronavirus Community Action group. So that was anybody that was sort of isolating around Thurrock, that needed access to food - so they had a lot of, like 500 volunteers that were picking up shopping for people, medication, and things like that. And so when they got to the end of the sort of the first lockdown, they realised that they needed someone to come in and sort of coordinate all of the different food offers that exist in Thurrock. So people that can give food, people that need access to food. And so my role focuses on that, and so working a lot with food banks and community allotments, anyone that can spare food for people. Um, and also the super markets as well, their community champions, but it does also focus on sort of being self sufficient with your food, and like food resilience. So encouraging people to grow their own food, and like, to grow and share their own food and things like that.
Sharen: So do you go out to people to talk to them?
Jamie: Yeah. Yeah, so we've got um, quite a few different community allotments that have popped up. There’s one that been established, say, 18 months now in South Ockendon, that’s like the flagship community allotment. It’s got like chickens and a little sensory garden. so sort of like met with that one. They went and saw one that was just setting up in Grays since then.
Libby: That's amazing. I had no idea. Whereabouts is the one in Grays.
Jamie: It’s on White Hall Lane. Lovely. Yeah, I noticed the big allotment site, but then you've got the Orchards Community forum have taken over a plot there. So they've got different people from the community that work there that were sort of isolated. People that have come together to form a group. And are growing their own food. That was great. Yes.
Sharen: And are they well used, do lots of people go down there?
Jamie: Well they've got about 10 people volunteering at the moment, so it's been very successful
Libby: Has it been difficult to keep up momentum with, like, the community spirit that happened during lockdown? Did it sort of fade of a bit?
Jamie: Yes, it did. I think it's still very much there, but obviously, where people aren’t on furlough anymore they’ve gone back to their day jobs, they have haven’t really got the time to volunteer as much as they did? But, you do sort of notice whenever you put a call out for volunteers it never doesn’t get answered. So there's always, like, people willing to help out when they can which is good, but a big part of of this role as well they also employed some more Community Builders when I started. Based in different areas of Thurrock, that’s their role to keep up momentum of what we started.
Libby: So it's been good working in partnership with them.
Jamie: Absolutely. Yeah.
Libby: How have you supported the community to keep that momentum going?
Jamie: Just making sure that I'm available when they need me, any sort of questions or queries I'm always there to support. And if there's stuff that I come across, it isn't really to do with the food network that I know would benefit them, then I would send them in that direction, sort of linking groups up together, so that we can support each other as well. And just, yeah, regular visits so like I’d go once every couple of weeks to the allotments and to all the different community groups that I do, just so they know I’m a regular face and that they can get in contact with me.
Libby: Which groups have you linked up with each other?
Jamie: So from Thurrock Council they’ve got a project called the Well Homes projects. And they are the refugee families that have been settled in the area, managed to link them up with a charity in Stanford called Hardie Park, who helped out to acquire some clothing and things like that to help with the children and also then the allotment in … Lane so yea, any sort of extra food they get can it go to the families to help them settle a bit, and give them a sense of belonging, like there involved in the community in that way. So they can also then go and use the garden as well which has been quite nice.
Sharen: So how did they find out about it? Is it all on a website or?
Yes, So we recently launched the website. It was just before Christmas, November time, so when you go on there, you'll see we've got a tab which you can click which has the community gardens and allotments, so you know when there open and where they are. Who runs them, and then there's another one for sort of like all the partners that are involved. But everything is on there, and we've also got a um community recipe tab as well, so you can click on them to submit one. We're trying to grow like a recipe book of recipes local to Thurrock, to sort of show the diversity we have and celebrate that a little bit.
Sharen: Yeah and it’s quite nice to understand what foods grow when as well. To know what's in season as well.
Jamie: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So the allotments have been quite good with that as well, because they all put stuff out on their own facebook pages saying this is a good time to plant this and yea, gives people more of an idea of what they are doing.
Libby: Through working with allotments. Do you know if there's a zero waste community in Thurrock?
Jamie: There definitely is. So with the allotment in Mollands Lane, they've got something which I really love. It's like a little cart they have just by the gate and so anything that is surplus, they will leave there and they have an honesty box. You can just donate, which goes straight back into running that community allotment. I know that there's been quite a few to sort of like individuals who have been on the allotment for the last 40 years or so and then I have just sort of hounded them and been like, you could donate all those potatoes because you're not going to eat them. They have then donated back to the local soup kitchen. So.
Libby: Oh lovely
Jamie: Yeah, so people are very mindful. And then you've also got umm its called the refill cabin, which launched about a year ago, by Katie, she’s brilliant and she's really got to momentum now with like food waste .Encouraging people to just buy what they need and she’ll just pop up in different places around Thurrock on different days
Sharen: I think I've seen her, she has a little cart
Jamie: Yea yea its like an old horse cart which she has renovated, it’s brilliant.
Sharen: A lot of your work came about because of the pandemic. So moving forward what will it look like?
Jamie: Well, I think it's going to be more of a sort of a legacy thing. So the idea is to get Thurrock to the point where the Food Network sustains itself. So because obviously it's not going to be here forever because of the funding and all of that. But that is the aim that you engage the community so much that they then don’t wanna lose it so they take it over themselves. Which is what we are working for
Sharen: So you can step away but it will continue because it’s established
Jamie: Yeah. Yes. Yeah. And to be honest, I mean, it's almost happened anyway because you’ve got so many people that are involved in it and they just do brilliant work so I’m not really worried about it not lasting.
Libby: So you started the the role way back in the pandemic. Have you worked in the charity sector previously?
Jamie: No, so I was actually working in a museum beforehand, because I was doing my Masters. So I was working part time there. But when it came to like doing my dissertation for my MA? I focused on sort of community and how I could build community cohesion. So it was like a big subject, but yeah, that was like yea I want to get into community work. So then I saw this job pop up, but I applied for it. And here we are. Yeah, it’'s nice because I knew that my manager, Jacky, she knew I didn't have any experience beforehand. But she said that sort of like that she saw herself in me like 20 years ago. So she gave me a chance, which was lovely.
Libby: What museum were you working at?
Jamie: The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Yeah, it was really far from what I’m doing now. Yeah,I don’t even like maritime history. It was a bit weird.
Sharen: What was your role there?
Jamie: I was just like a visitor assistant. So sort of like meet and greeting people, doing tours and things but the community aspect of it was great. It was just like,
Jamie: ships and stuff. You had to be enthusiastic.
Libby: Is there anything new coming up for the Thurrock food network this year?
Jamie: Yes. So we've just acquired a new community fridge. So we already have one that based inStanford, in Hardie Park, which they done that completely themselves. And it's been going on for about two years now. So what they get donations from Marks and Spencer's, Lidl, Sainsburys. So every day they'll get a delivery. Then they’ll put it in the fridge. And then it's basically like a take what you need pay what you can kind of thing, that goes back into sustaining the charity. So trying to replicate that model in Chafford Hundred at the Beacon Centre. So, a local company called TRUP which is like an upcycling company that does sort of white goods as well. I went there with a lady called Helen just to talk about getting us a discounted sort of fridge with some funding. And then they were so generous. They just sat there and just ordered us a brand new one for us on the spot.
Libby: Ah that’s so lovely!
Jamie: So that's in Chafford now it’s been delivered. We’re just waiting to sort of launch it. So that will be more, it's more on the aspect of, like reducing food waste that one because of like the area that its I dont think there’s many people that need to access food.So more the food waste side of it. Yeah.
Jamie: Then hopefully that will be a success. Then more businesses will join in.
Libby: Yeah, definitely.
Sharen: And would you also encourage people to donate.
Jamie: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, it does. It can be a bit with the health and safety because you had the recent law that came into place having to label all the allergens, haven’t you.
Jamie: If it was something like, you know, just root vegetables. That's fine, but not any food that’s sort of been cooked or prepared it would have to be just stuff that they’ve grown that you can see they haven’t prepared.
Sharen: They’ve started to do one, I saw one in Leigh Community Centre which has got the fridge, and the idea is that local people, and I always see like tomatoes in there and cucumbers
Jamie: Yeah. Yes. It's really, really good if you can sort of donate the food that you've grown, but yeah definitely can’t be doing food that people cook, which is a shame, because that would be lovely, but, you know, health and safety first.
Libby: But people can do like all of the packaged things, like if they had UHT milk or something, going spare?
Jamie: Yeah, absolutely, as long as it's not been opened.
Jamie: Yeah that’s fine.
Sharen: So you mentioned volunteers, so are you always looking for more people to get involved?
Jamie: Yeah. I mean, not even just with the Food Network, you know just CVS as a whole. We always need volunteers, there’s always something for people to do. And even if you've got, if there is nothing to do… We can find something.
Libby: If an individual wants to donate some food or items, how do they go about doing that?
Jamie: So the best thing to do would be to contact me, on sort of email address for Food Network, because it, it would depend on what they have and you know, where it can go. Cause, for instance, with the Food Bank they can’t really take fresh produce.
Jamie: It has to be you know, non-perishable goods. But if you do have fresh food it can go somewhere like Hardie Park. So, yeah, just send me a message and I’ll find somewhere for it to go.
Sharen: If any of our listeners would like to get in touch with you or follow along with what you going on, where can they find out more?
Jamie: So I've got my own Facebook account, which is um, Jamie Lee Food Network Coordinator, so you can find me that way. And there's also the Stronger Together page on Facebook, as well as it's called Our Road, which is like a group. So that, that came out of coronavirus again, sort of like a, a bit like neighbourly, but it’s just CVS’s own version of it. And then you have got the Stronger Together Twitter page as well, so that’s always got information on there, and they’re always sort of Tweeting things out and giving announcements, so that’s the easiest way.
Sharen: It’s really nice to see how something so positive has come out of the pandemic.
Sharen: And you can take it forward and yeah.
Jamie: Yeah, and it's just been it's been quite inspiring because, I mean I’ve lived in Thurrock my whole life, before I started this job, I didn't have a clue, like, how much was actually going on, and how much like people were doing. And you know, it's still, you still come across new people sort of every week, that are just like starting out. Or and it’s just yeah really good to see that people do really care.
Sharen: Yeah, and just really want to give their time don’t they, to make a difference.
Libby: Lovely. Well, thank you so much for coming to join us today. It was a pleasure speaking to you.
Sharen: Thank you
Jamie: Thank you!
Thanks so much for tuning in! Please note that Jamie has since left their post as Thurrock Food Network Coordinator to go onto a career in grant making. We’d like to say a huge congratulations to Jamie - we can’t wait to have a chat to you about your new role soon..!
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Thank you so much. Take care - bye!