The Full Circle Food Project (FCFP) is a Northumberland-based charity that supports and educates community members on living healthier lives, growing their own food and healthy cooking on a budget. The project wouldn’t be possible without the support of wonderful volunteers and funding from Coalfields Regeneration Trust, the Community Foundation, Newcastle Building Society, the Peoples Postcode Lottery, BBC Children in Need, Northumberland County Council, Tudor Trust and Northumberland Children’s Trust. As well as creating more sustainable habits, the project aims to increase skills, address the effects of poverty, reduce incidences of diet-related ill-health, and make our communities more socially inclusive.
The charity has kitchen gardens at Hirst Welfare Centre and a large community garden space in Seaton Hirst, Ashington, which are open to individuals, families, and groups. The workshops teach people all about growing organic and sustainable food, making sure that it is fun and tasty too!
Once you’ve learnt about growing food, the Full Circle Food Project offers hands on cooking experiences for all ages, from families with young children to older people living alone. The cooking classes are designed to teach people that healthy and tasty food can be made on a limited budget. We provide sessions in a structured kitchen environment, but also offer ‘wild’ cooking classes, taught outside.
The project has a strong emphasis on building community spirit and has recently equipped their large shed with a social space to meet others and have a cup of tea. After the cooking sessions, everybody can enjoy a hot meal eaten together.
Feed Me is a 3-year project, funded by BBC Children in Need, engaging with families and young people to encourage them to cook and eat together. FCFP comes to 3 local primary schools and offers informal cooking sessions for parents and children, demonstrating how healthy food can be prepared in a fun way, on a limited budget. The parents and children have found the sessions very rewarding, enjoy the opportunity to spend time with each other, and the kids love the hands-on sessions, even washing up!
As part of the Hirst Park Regeneration Programme, Full Circle Food Project have been offered a large piece of land to build a community growing space, working alongside Northumberland College’s horticultural tuition department. There are plans to develop the space into a fully accessible food growing area, with educational cooking facility, indoor and outdoor social spaces. We will be working with the college and local youth services providers to engage disadvantaged young people in design and construction, to guide them towards improved physical and mental wellbeing, and ultimately into gaining qualifications and employment.
Expect the project to grow slowly. It can take time for projects to establish themselves and for the community to hear about them. Great ways to spread the word is through social media and working with other community bodies. At the Full Circle Food Project, we use Twitter and Facebook to publicise our workshops. We have also led projects based in schools which allows us to reach out to the wider community.
Fundraising can be difficult. Many community projects rely on volunteers and donations to keep running. We are fortunate enough to have been supported by many organisations. Our Feed Me Project was funded by BBC’s Children in Need and our Grow On project was funded by the Squires Trust and Greggs Foundation. We have also received finding from the Lottery, Community Foundation, Neighbourly and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, just to name a few. Although securing funding can be difficult at the start, organisations such as these are always looking for charitable community projects to support.
Finally, engaging the community in planning is a great way of finding out what people need and value most. This has allowed us to make a real difference.