Celebrations have been held to herald the impact of a soon-to-end scheme which has provided a valuable outlet to many edible growers across Wales.
The Community Food Co-operative Programme, for which funding comes to an end in September, leaves a legacy of more 300 food co-ops in Wales, generating income for Welsh growers, providing customers across Wales with healthy, fresh and affordable food, and helping volunteers to gain vital skills and confidence. In Conwy and Denbighshire alone, more than 40 food co-ops are running in community venues such as schools, village halls and churches with groups still involved since the beginning of the programme.
The focal celebration event was held on 1 July, when over 100 school pupils were invited to visit one of the food co-op suppliers, Belmont Farm. The children and accompanying staff were delighted to meet farmer Euros Evans and walk through his farmland, where they were able to see crops growing such as potatoes, broccoli, carrots, and cauliflowers, and watch the tractor at work in the fields. Bodnant Welsh Food Centre also hosted the group who enjoyed tours of the centre, tasting the ice cream made on site, and a fun cookery lesson with chef Dai Davies.
The programme has received a number of awards, including the Public Health Wales Good Practice Award and Horticulture Wales Environmental Excellence Award, and has been recognised by the Welsh Government for its contribution to community development and success in promoting Welsh-grown produce across the country.
Despite funding for the programme ending soon, RRU General Manager Debbie Handley is confident the existing network of food co-ops will continue to thrive: “We’ve always strived to set up food co-ops with the well-being of future generations in mind and we really couldn't have achieved so much without such wonderful support across Wales.”