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New community hub helping to feed hundreds of people in food poverty in Angus and Mearns

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A community project has collaborated with councils in Angus and Aberdeenshire, and FareShare to provide produce for around 1,000 people living in food poverty.

A partnership project in Angus, Kincardine and the Mearns will help to prevent hundreds of people experiencing food poverty from going hungry.

Brechin Pantry chairwoman, Kathy Calderwood, has been working hard to get the West Angus and Mearns Food Hub up and running and is thrilled that a collaborative approach among local councils has borne dividends.

She said it showed how people in need, especially in rural areas, can benefit from councils joining forces for the good of their communities.

Kathy said: “We were trying to work out a delivery system for the last few years from the FareShare Dundee depot. However, they were short of vans and logistics were a nightmare.

“At the end of the year, FareShare managed to set up a depot in Perth that has eased their logistics.

“I spoke to FareShare Dundee at the turn of the year and within 48 hours we had established a food aid hub within Brechin managed by the Brechin Pantry and delivering to the independent food larders and pantries across west Angus, Mearns and Kincardine.

“Establishing the depot in Perth removed all the obligations in Dundee for Perth and Kinross and West Fife which meant they were now able to do a delivery from the Dundee hub to Brechin.”

Key role

Angus Council has played a key role providing the infrastructure for the project, while also supporting the initiative with the secondment of someone from their communities team.

“The pantry has premises that were Common Good premises leased from the council and from there we had basically set up the food hub, where the pantry managed it,” added Kathy.

Chairperson, Kathy Calderwood with volunteer Mary Behan at the West Angus & Mearns Food Hub which is manged by Brechin Community Hub at 50 High Street, Brechin.

“Angus Council, has provided all the refrigeration, the freezers and all the work needed as well to get things up and running. They have also seconded a communities team member for Brechin to work with me.

“The council said they had out of commission equipment sitting which we could use which was fantastic and they supplied the electricians to come in and upgrade the electrics.

“We have also had help from Aberdeenshire Council, too, so it’s great to see them, Angus Council and FareShare all working together.”

Small hubs benefit

With the new service now fully operational, it is smaller community food hubs which are now enjoying the benefit.

Kathy added: “Larders in Auchenblae, Inverbervie and Fettercairn that were set up as a direct response to Covid-19 are still operating and still see the need for help.

“Instead of getting one delivery a fortnight coming from Laurenekirk, they will now see a collection every week from Brechin where they can pick up what they want.

Tinned and dried goods.

“I phone them on a Monday, tell them what we have and they put their order in. A bigger range of produce is encouraging a more frequent delivery of food aid and it also means we have approximately 12 different larders from Aberdeenshire and Angus all working together and getting to know each other.”

Feeding 1,000 people

Community larders differ from foodbanks by the fact anyone can use them. People can visit the larder when they need something – and then donate when they can, too.

And there is a huge number of people living in food poverty receiving much-needed aid as a result of the new hub.

“We were looking at the numbers of people who are actually being fed in these outer areas, really rural areas,” said Kathy.

“It’s not Stonehaven or Portlethen, for instance, it is the really small rural communities that are benefiting from this.

“Looking at all the areas together between Kirriemuir, Montrose, Brechin and these other seven or eight larders in Mearns we are feeding about 1,000 people a week.

Mary Behan and Kathy Calderwood stocking up.

“The most important thing for me is that our rural areas are now going to be served consistently with a great selection of food produce.

“The West Angus and Mearns Food Hub is managed by the Brechin Pantry, but it was part of our overall vision to help people in need outwith our area where we could with food and we have done it.”

Partnership working

Angus Council’s communities director Stewart Ball revealed that previous positive working partnerships they had formed with the pantry were key to the new food poverty initiative.

He said: “Our communities team has enjoyed an enduring and effective partnership with the pantry and with established structures already in place before the pandemic, we were able to hit the ground running in this time of greatest need.

“This valuable relationship stood us all in good stead for the distribution of support during the first lockdown and, when restrictions were imposed again in December, the communities team, the pantry and FareShare identified the need for a central distribution facility (hub) in west Angus. This was because we recognised there could be increased demand for food support, particularly from rural areas.

“Plans were swiftly put in place and the first deliveries went out from January 11. Working with other council departments, the team sourced fridges and freezers and this meant that food supplies were able to be more varied and deliver a well-balanced diet.

“As (and when) lockdown restrictions ease, the team intend to train volunteers in the administrative aspects of this community-driven initiative, so council staff can be less hands-on.

“Through the excellent work and commitment of everyone involved, we hope this the hub has helped to ease the understandable concerns and uncertainty that many people have due to impact of the pandemic and that individuals and families can both feel and are supported.”

More about Brechin Community Pantry…

How ‘community larders’ teamed up with the Co-op to save food for families who really need it

Community pantry’s new allotment will provide locals opportunity to grow fresh fruit and vegetables themselves

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