Changing the conversation about health

A Social Prescribing success story: Burnley’s Fresh Food Initiative helps people access locally-grown organic food – and teaches them how to cook it

The Green Dreams Project CIC in Padiham, near Burnley, started back in 2009 when College of Medicine Council member Dr James Fleming decided not to pursue a PHD in favour of using his free time and energy to make a difference in the East Lancashire community where he lives.

Ever since, Green Dreams has provided local, community-based solutions to unemployment, isolation and reduced quality of life – and, in recent years, has expanded to include the ‘Fresh Food Initiative’.

Here, James offers an update on the Fresh Food Initiative’s successes…and his plans for the future:

The ‘Fresh Food Initiative’ is a collaboration between the Green Dreams Project and Pennine Community Farms, two organisations that have worked together for years to contribute to nutrition and education in particular.

Essentially, it aims to create a network of growers across Burnley and Pendle, and optimise space for food production, while also supplementing food banks with fresh fruit and vegetables that have been grown locally and by organic methods.

Allotment time: The Fresh Food Initiative in East Lancashire aims to help people grow their own food, or access locally-grown produce to improve both their diet and their wellbeing…(Pictured left: stock image Pixabay/Pixeleye. Right: A Lancashire allotment used for the project)

The concept behind the project is to enable people to grow their own food through education and practical support, helping to empower them to improve their diet via demonstrations of cooking with fresh produce in ‘chop, cook and eat’ sessions.

It also collates easy-to-follow recipes throughout the seasons, culminating in a cook book to use alongside the fresh produce.

ACHIEVEMENTS SO FAR

  • In the last year alone, 1.5 tonnes of food have been produced for five local food banks
  • Ten education providers (from Nursery to University level) have been supported with food growing initiatives, including practical assistance to upgrade their growing spaces, running regular growing sessions, upskilling staff and providing work experience placements at our growing sites
  • 45 volunteers are actively involved in our food growing team
  • We have held 44 ‘chop, cook and eat’ sessions to demonstrate how to use, produce and follow easy-to-replicate, tasty recipes
  • Our produce has been used in our new Cooking With Kindness project – a monthly event where groups collaborate to provide a free three-course meal for up to 50 beneficiaries
  • We now host work placements for medical students from the University of Central Lancashire all year round, and for Occupational Therapy students

Lancashire GP Dr James Fleming, a College of Medicine Council Member, started The Green Dreams Project CIC in Padiham, near Burnley in 2009

WHAT’S COMING UP?

In 2023, we have expanded our fresh food offering with the addition of eggs from our allotment-reared chickens – this has given our beneficiaries the option to learn about caring for chickens first hand and has greatly supplemented our ‘chop, cook and eat’ sessions with their healthy and versatile eggs.

We have developed a growing scheme to maximise year-round food production to include nutritious leaves and herbs in the winter months. On reflecting on 2022, we realised the need to trial additional winter crops to avoid a shortfall in supply.

This year, the Fresh Food Initiative has also offered eggs from allotment-reared chickens (Pictured: stock image – Pexels/Pixabay)

The most successful winter crops have proven to be pea shoots, kale, spicy salad leaves and herbs. We have recently secured additional allotment space to boost our yield and give opportunities to our volunteers to be involved in creating the new growing space.

Additionally, we have brought two polytunnels and four greenhouses back into production, further optimising our space.

We have also started a weekly growing session in Burnley, at the Howard Street Community Garden. This site has many established fruit bushes, trees, perennial herbs and raised vegetable beds that are already in production.

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COOKING WITH KINDNESS

Cooking With Kindness events are held each month and include the use of our fresh, seasonal produce. Attendees receive a free three-course meal and are given the recipe for each course to enable them to recreate the dish at home. Our recent events have involved The Princes Trust and Burnley College Health and Social Care students.

Future events include working with Arts for Wellbeing (Pendle Leisure Trust) to hold a gallery in our polytunnels of their artwork themed around food growing, whilst feeding the visitors and offering home-made herbal teas on the day.

We continue to work with people of all ages and backgrounds and welcome new volunteers to join with our ongoing efforts to produce and distribute fresh food to those who need it.