The pioneering food co-operative Fylde FoodCo from Lancashire, is the latest winner of the Prime Minister's Big Society Award in recognition of its initiative to provide free locally grown produce to those in greatest need.
Members of the group collected their award from the Prime Minister at Downing Street reception last week.
Fylde Foodco was set up in 2010, when a Fylde Borough Housing Council officer identified the lack of and barriers to accessing fresh and affordable fruit and vegetables. The food co-operative was established to address this problem, transforming unused public space, schools and church grounds into vegetable plots. It engaged community members as volunteers, enhancing community cohesion. Benefits of the scheme stretch beyond the provision of fresh fruit and vegetables, as its volunteering mechanism has encouraged people to become involved in the local community, helping individuals who are the most vulnerable, isolated due to illness or age, and with low income.
The Food Co-operative Volunteers, under the guiding hand of the local YMCA, deliver 30 free vegetable boxes each week to those identified as in need, either financially or socially. They are assisted by Kirkham Prison, the Ormerod Trust and Fylde’s Allotment Associations who help grow and distribute the free produce. The volunteers come from different backgrounds and bring with them a raft of experience and enthusiasm.
Commenting on the award Prime Minister David Cameron said:
Fylde Food Co-operative is a great example of organisations from across a community coming together to make a difference. Turning unused public space into vegetable plots where anyone can volunteer has both achieved the goal of making fresh fruit and vegetables affordable and also created a real sense of community spirit.
I was delighted to be able to meet with members of the co-operative recently to present them with their Big Society Award. Their passion for this project is impressive and I hope they continue to play such a part in the Fylde community.
John Cronin, Fylde Coast YMCA Executive Director, commented on the win of the Big Society Awards:
Fylde Coast YMCA is pleased to see Foodco recognised for the way in which it has helped to bring different elements of society together. This is has been achieved by many people giving time, effort and skills.
Some of those involved in the foundation of the scheme have moved on and those remaining have the challenge of sustaining the enterprise and developing the project further. Turning land into productive growing areas, making fresh fruit and vegetables available and bringing people to share their resources is something to be encouraged and sustained wherever possible.
Fylde Foodco’s achievements to date include:
- Having developed and registered nine growing sites through collaboration with local churches, schools and the HMP Kirkham who farms 65 acres as part of the scheme
- Over 1500 food parcels have been processed and delivered free of charge to those in need
- 59 recipients are registered and receive weekly food parcels
- 37 local volunteers are registered, assisting in growing, harvesting and delivery
Volunteers are involved not only in the farming of produce, but also in delivery. They provide a vital social contact to lonely older residents in the borough, sometimes leading to unexpected friendships and further support by the volunteers in helping the elderly to the supermarket and to the hairdressers.
These relationships are encouraged by the Foodco, believing that food can be used as a catalyst for making small positive changes to lives and society.
Another example of the positive effect the Fylde Foodco has had on the lives of individuals in the community, is that on the lives of the volunteers. One of their growing volunteers, who suffers with learning disabilities, was initially referred to the Food Co-op as a recipient of food parcels, which later led him to begin volunteering. The experience has improved his self-confidence, his general attitude towards himself and other people, and most importantly, his future. He went on to win a Fylde Youth Salute Award for Young Volunteers in Fylde.
Notes to Editors
On Fylde FoodCo
On the Big Society Awards
The Big Society Awards were set up by the Prime Minister in November 2010. The aim is to acknowledge individuals and organisations across the UK that demonstrates the Big Society in their work or activities. In so doing, the aim is also to galvanise others to follow.
The award focuses upon three specific areas:
Outstanding Contribution to Community
- People, projects and organisations that enable communities to drive change themselves
- Projects and organisations that allow the community to identify solutions
- People, projects and organisations that inspire others to contribute to their community
Improving Lives and Society Through Innovation, Collaboration and New Partnerships
- People and organisations taking new approaches to public services
- Successful collaboration and partnerships between public, private and voluntary sector - working together to benefit communities
Engaging in Social Action
- People, projects and organisations taking action in their community
- Working together for social change (e.g. through creating groups, campaigns, movements)
- Generosity of time, money, skills and other resources - in support of social action
Launching the awards, the Prime Minister said:
There are some amazing projects and remarkable voluntary work going on in towns and cities up and down the country, by all kinds of organisations from large enterprises to tiny grassroots schemes and inspirational individuals.
These awards are a chance to pay tribute to those making a valuable contribution to their community, the real champions of the Big Society, but perhaps more importantly, I hope they will motivate many others to take action, get involved and drive change in their area.
Nominations come in from the general public after which there follows a process of scoring and short-listing by officials and a further short-listing by a Panel of Ministers and independent external experts. This Panel makes recommendations to the Prime Minister who then presents the final award. Around twelve winners are decided each quarter meeting and then announced throughout the year.
For more information visit: /bigsocietyawards
Fifty-three winners have been announced to date including:
The Sweet Project - A social enterprise that develops and trains students while supporting families in deprived areas.
Bevendean Local Action Team - A volunteer run initiative that aims to reduce anti-social behaviour and promote pride in their local community.
Christian Nightlife Initiative - National - a community group that has helped to reclaim no-go areas of their town once blighted by binge drinking through night-time weekend patrols by volunteers.
Volunteer it Yourself - London - enables young people to gain accredited building and DIY skills by working, under the guidance of local professional tradespeople, to fix and refurbish local youth centres in need of essential repairs.
For a full list of winners visit http://www.bigsocietyawards.org