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It’s that time of year again! It’s time to talk about The Aviva Community Fund. If you’ve been following my blog a while, you’ll know I’m a huge supporter of this fantastic initiative. Last year, I visited a local primary school who had just received funding of £5000 towards their new outdoor learning area and the year before I chatted to Contact The Elderly who run tea parties for the elderly and were awarded £10,000 to help prevent loneliness in the elderly community – it’s amazing to see what changes the funding and support can make and the impact this has on our community. As you can see it’s a varied and interesting initiative and I am delighted to be part of it again this time around!
The Aviva Community Fund supports groups and projects that work hard in our local communities. This could be anything from groups that support mental health issues, teach life-changing skills or regenerate community areas – the Aviva Community Fund offers everything from support to practical advice and funding. The funding ranges from £1,000 up to £25,000 which will really make such a huge difference to some of the projects in the running. I couldn’t wait to see who I’d be visiting this year!
Balfour Primary School – My previous Aviva Community Fund visit
This year my visit was to The Real Junk Food Project in Brighton. The project is part of the Real Junk Food Project network which is a national and international movement of cafes, projects and pop-ups with one core objective: To intercept food waste destined for land fill and use it to feed people who need it, on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis. The project aims to ‘Feed bellies not bins’ and as a massive supporter of all things eco-friendly and sustainable and a huge foodie this project was right up my street. I headed into Brighton to see how the project operates and the difference the Aviva Community Funding has made to the good work they do.
I headed down to One Church Brighton on a Friday lunchtime, where The Real Junk Food Project host their busiest cafe of the week. I was told on Fridays the project can feed up to 150 people so I knew it would be busy but as I arrived at the location I was shocked to see the queue stretching right out the doors and down the street! I headed in to meet Sarah Betts, the co-director of the Brighton project and find out more.
Inside the cafe, the atmosphere was just buzzing – the queues of people just kept on coming, chatter filled the air as well as the smell of the delicious food being served. I met Sarah, who told me a little bit more about the great work they do.
Sarah explained that a quarter to a third of food produced globally, is wasted whilst in the UK 2 million people are estimated to be malnourished. That doesn’t seem to add up, does it? I was shocked by the facts and figures around how much food is wasted in the UK when we have so many people in need within our community. Luckily the The Real Junk Food Project are working hard to make a difference as everything that is served here would otherwise be in landfill.
I was curious to find out where the food comes from – Sarah explained they have agreements with major supermarkets who are happy to donate the food they would usually be putting into the bins at the end of the day. The issue is that if the food is past it’s ‘Best Before’ date, it’s not able to be sold, whereas the food still has plenty of life before it is no longer edible. Often fruit or vegetables will come in a multi-pack where one is misshapen or mouldy. This is removed and the rest of the pack used at the project.
Every morning food is collected and brought to a main hub, which is in a suburb of Brighton 20 minutes from the city centre. The team then clean, sort and prep the food, ready for the cafes during the day, which are run from ‘pop-up’ venues across the city – the One Church venue on a Friday being the biggest and most popular. Inside the venue, there are large tables to encourage people to sit together, chat together and eat together. It’s a real community project, which is not just about the food but about bringing people together from all walks of life to eat together and socialise. Not only does the project stop food from going into landfill, but they also offer vital work experience on a voluntary basis to those in the community, teaching them skills on food hygiene, food preparation and cookery too.
From the food they have collected, the team create a vast array of fresh dishes. The food is all mainly vegetarian – with a large range of tastes from curries, to pies, vegetables, rice dishes, breads, salads and even mixed fruit salad for pudding too! This is all ready to serve at lunch time by 13:00. The team have to be really creative as they as they never know exactly what food they might get, the menu changes seasonally too.
Of course, I couldn’t come to a food venue, without giving it a try myself, so I joined the queue and got stuck in!
The cafe operates a ‘pay as you feel’ concept that encourages people to think about what that plate of food means to them and value it in whatever way they can. This means no one is segregated based on financial circumstances, those who are able can help to fund the project, whilst those in need are not degraded or shamed for taking a free or cheap meal either.
Whilst eating my food, I chatted to Sarah about what differences the Aviva Community Funding made to the project. In 2017, they were awarded £5000 which was used to turn their main hub in Bevendean, Brighton from a shell of a building to a fully functioning food storage unit and sorting hub. They’ve absolutely transformed a building with no clean running water or heating into an amazing space – Sarah showed me some photos, it is absolutely unrecognisable after the transformation! They were also able to fit a large walk-in chiller unit for storing food and once the project was finished the building was awarded the highest possible food hygiene rating too. The hub has meant the project has a proper place to store and prepare food – before the hub the team would often have to collect and store food in their own homes, so you can imagine the difference this building has made to the project.
As you can see from my plate, my food was nutritious, fresh, healthy and it’s just unbelievable that should the project not exist, it would have been in a landfill by now. As well as the freshly cooked food, the cafe also have boxes of surplus food like bread, bananas and fruit which are available for the taking.
The cafe attracts people from all walks of life and was a real mix of people – all coming together for one main reason, to share great food and come together as a community. There is no divide between people, it’s a fully inclusive space where all are welcome, no matter the circumstances. It was an amazing experience to get involved in such a fantastic project – I was in awe! Now I know the project is there I’ll certainly back for lunch at the cafe on future trips to Brighton too. What an amazing project to support!
So, I’m pleased to announce the Aviva Community Fund 2018 is now open for voting! If you’d like to vote for a project close to your heart, visit https://at.aviva.uk/GetVoting now.
The ACF works by inviting members of the community to submit an idea, big or small that will make a real difference to a local group, charity or cause that they are passionate about. This year the ACF is focusing on three specific categories: environment, health & wellbeing and skills for life.
Projects have the chance to secure funding ranging from up to £1,000 to £25,000 as well as access ‘more than money’ support from ACF such as advice; with an array of educational content hosted on the ACF website and dedicated Facebook community group. Content includes how to write a compelling entry, how to generate awareness of your group via social media or through traditional media, how to capture photography and video. Good luck!