By Claire Savage
An innovative community-based project in Cloughmills, Co Antrim is helping people rediscover their relationship with food and tackling the issue of food poverty as they go along.
Incredible Edible Cloughmills, which has received funding from the Big Lottery Northern Ireland, encourages residents to get actively involved with their food, providing an allotment garden for growing vegetables, as well as teaching people how to prepare what’s grown.
Visitors to the site can also take produce home, as well as participate in various cookery classes and activities.
The idea is simple – by cultivating a better relationship with food and making it accessible to all, Incredible Edible Cloughmills is creating a community which can thrive.
The initiative is part of the Community Food Initiatives Programme 2013-15, managed by Healthy Food for All (HFfA) and funded by Safefood. Based at the Old Mill in Cloughmills, a site owned by Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council (CCGBC), the project is run day-to-day by the volunteers who make up the Cloughmills Community Action Team (CCAT).
Patrick Frew, who is at the helm of the team, said the project is all about empowering people, and giving them the skills and knowledge to make better choices about food. “We’re still grasping at food poverty in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“Food banks aren’t the answer. We work with two primary schools and I started to realise the kids didn’t know much about their food. It all started off with growing things and then we thought – what do we do when everything’s grown? So, we introduced cooking classes. We also teach people things like cooking on a budget.”
One of the earlier aspects of the project was the Doorstep Allotments, which saw young people grow and then deliver vegetables to the elderly population in Cloughmills.
Although the team don’t have the resources to regularly deliver, it’s an avenue they hope to revisit soon.
In the meantime, people are encouraged to visit the site, grow food and either buy the produce or, if they can’t afford it, take it away for free.
Recycling and education officer at CCGBC, Declan Donnelly, adds: “From the outset, we said food should be accessible. If you want to take something away then you can take it. Food should never be used to control people. It’s a human right.
“The core ethos is very simple. The principle is getting people doing things – people of all ages. In areas like Cloughmills, it’s as much about transport as access to a decent budget that creates food poverty. Incredible Edible Cloughmills is trying to develop a new relationship with food.”
With hundreds of people visiting the Old Mill site every year – from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Finland and across the UK – it’s a project that’s extremely adaptable to any community. Indeed, it’s the community element which has made it so successful, said Declan.
“We’ll only ever change society and address food poverty in Northern Ireland if the community gets a grip of this themselves, and that’s what’s happening in Cloughmills,” he said. “It’s a fascinating project.”
• To view the full issue of VIEW FOOD MAGAZINE, which was supported by the Food Standards Agency NI, go to http://viewdigital.org/2015/10/27/food-issue/