WORKING IN PARTNERSHIP TO HELP SUPPORT LOCAL PEOPLE
Our Community Food support provides a range of options for residents to help reduce food waste, access affordable food and spend time socialising or volunteering, to help develop new skills. Working with charities and other local groups, our Community Fridge and Larder are part of a city-wide approach that is being copied in other areas.
Originally set up in the Wolverton Bath House in 2017, the Milton Keynes Community Fridge project is designed to combat food waste. The Coffee Hall community fridge was opened in 2018 by our Youth/Environment teams. In the early days, council officers collected food from supermarkets & local express shops, and the fridge was open 5 days a week, for 30 minutes each day.
During the 2020 lockdown, the fridge closed to the public, and was changed to a food parcel delivery service, with products supplied by a local food charity, Sofea. As we came out of lockdown, a new service, Food Connect was set up to distribute food between shops and community fridges using a fleet of e-cargo bikes and an electric van. At the same time, we moved to 2 x 4 hour sessions per week, staffed by volunteers. There is also a monthly session on the last Saturday of the month, to give people who work during the week an opportunity to access the fridge.
We regularly distribute over 600kg of food every week, and since July 2020 have provided the equivalent of over 160,000 meals to residents in the Woughton area.
Set up at Coffee Hall in July 2020, the larder is part of a network of 24 similar operations in the UK. The project is run by the food charity SOFEA. There are currently 8 community larders in Milton Keynes, and there are several more due to come online in the new year. The larder is a paid membership scheme which gives people access to a wide range of high-quality food, and there are a range of other membership benefits in the pipeline – discounts on local businesses and services, utility vouchers etc. We run a popup café alongside the larder to encourage users to stay and socialise with each other.
The Community Cafe was set up in 2020 as an outdoor pop-up event, running alongside the Community Fridge. Food for the cafe was provided entirely through surplus food from the community fridge, which meant that the running costs were minimal.
In September 2020, the Community Café moved into the Coffee Hall Meeting Place, and now runs alongside the Community Fridge and Community Larder. The café is staffed by volunteers, and is a great way for us to engage with residents. We often have pop-up sessions in the café run by external agencies to give advice to residents.
We are always looking at different events in the café to engage with the community - tea dances, bingo, karaoke, open mic sessions, cinema etc