Food poverty in Lincoln is big. We currently have seven food banks, soon to be eight, and Lincoln is not a large city.
I started the Lincoln Food Summit back in July, after making a pledge to do so from the stage at BGU during the election campaign. It’s cross party and multi-faith – hunger and poverty are far too important to be party political footballs.
We’ve had two meetings so far, 18 people at the first, and another 18 at the next including new people.
The idea behind it was to bring together as many people and organisations in Lincoln trying to do their bit to help. Often the solution to a problem isn’t about money but about bringing the right people together. To my surprise, many had not met each other before!
So while there is a huge amount to do, there is also much good news to share. Professor Nigel Curry, who wrote the Lincoln Food Strategy, has been powering ahead, starting the Mint Lane Café using waste food among other projects. Rent is an issue there, so it has been very helpful that solicitor Richard Dale of Dale & Co who attended the Summit as Chair of the Lincoln Jewish Community, has been able to help out with some legal advice.
At the second meeting, Subash Chellaiah, University Chaplain Coordinator, met Tom and Tina James of Lincoln Community Larder. Tina has been advising Subash on the formal establishment of a food bank on campus – for students in need.
“There is need,” says Subash, “students from abroad find their funds are delayed, we have students who are single parents, students who have families, they find it difficult to pay rent and buy food.”
The relationship with Lincoln Community Larder will be two-way – Subash started a Peace Garden at the University where students grow vegetables. ”It’s very therapeutic and helpful to mental health.” Every Thursday, they have a Soup Lunch using the produce, but surplus produce will be sent to Lincoln Community Larder.
The second meeting was held at the Riseholme Showground Campus, hosted by Caroline Gollen who is in charge of the AgriFood Programme. At the meeting, she met Ruth Wilkinson of Wooden Spoon & Whisk, who has years of experience of teaching children who to cook, in particular, healthy food. Result? Ruth will be teaching students at Riseholme how to cook!
Similarly, another Summit member Martin Walmsley, Head of Revenues & Benefits, of City of Lincoln Council, has been looking into issues of rent to help Lincoln Community Larder.
When times are hard, it is easy to get despondent. But I have been so encouraged by all the fantastic people and organisations working so hard to change things for the better in Lincoln. I’ve met Ghada Mohamad, of the Muslim Sisters of Lincoln, who are cooking food and donating to food banks, Nina Alexander-Hill of Lincoln WI, who founded Fresh Freebie Friday at her children’s primary school, where spare produce from her allotments are shared out to everyone.
There’s a huge amount to do, we are just scraping the surface, and of course, there are the huge, complex underlying causes of food poverty to tackle.
So if you, or anyone you know, would like to join in and help, I’d love to hear from you: [email protected]