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Plain sailing despite furious paddling

Nathan Bushell

Managing the larder is more complicated than you think it is, but this actually makes it easier to run and give users more choice. Nathan Bushell explains.

I wasn’t sure how to approach this month’s appraisal of the Teign Valley Larder. I’m sure that most people reading this will have a good idea why it was established, and how they can contribute to its ongoing success simply by using it.

However, it has become clear that we’ve done quite a good job of hiding the complex machinery that keeps it running.

So, we thought that needs remedying. Our thinking is that the more that is known about it, the more people will have confidence using it.

On the morning that I wrote this piece, I took my son and the dog on a walk around village, picking up the donations from Christow Stores on the way. Kay had worked hard to open up her shop again, so that customers no longer had to queue outside, but she had still found space on one of her shelves for donated items, including the wonderful banana loaves, apple crumble and eggs from a mystery supplier in Dunsford.

With these stowed in my backpack, I walked through the village to a lock-up where everything is stored before being delivered to the sites in St James’s Church, Ashton, Doddi, Dunsford and Bridford.

I had to wait while someone was already in there (literally) taking stock – she was running through a list that she had made. She kindly let me push in front of her to drop off the items and fill out a delivery sheet.

My son was curious as to why I wasn’t taking the items straight to the church (he likes the larder – he sometimes picks up fruit while he’s walking the dog). I tried explaining the finer points of a hub and spoke distribution network, but he started glazing over.

But it did make me think about the complex nature of the system. Maybe it would be easier if there was just one outlet, but the larder wouldn’t be nearly as successful, as we may not get the delicious cakes from Dunsford. A central distribution point also allows us to efficiently deliver all the donations we get from the local farms (Whippletree Farm, Teign Greens, and Windout Farm), and manage the generous donations from individuals and businesses.

I sit on a board with eight other members, and each of us have different roles to play: accounting, managing food waste, liaising with volunteers, stock control, writing these articles, etc. When we discuss how to improve what we do, we all share the same values of helping those in need, reducing food waste, and putting the community first.

Furthermore, there are well over 20 people involved in the day-to-day running and managing the larder. All volunteers, and all who share those same sentiments.

When you use the larder – for whatever reason – you are investing in those complex procedures and putting your community first. Without you, it wouldn’t work at all.

April 2021: The Larder’s New Home

By Nathan Bushell

The Teign Valley Larder in Christow has got a new home.

Well, almost: it is now located inside the church, rather than the porch.

The benefits are abundantly clear when you visit the larder for yourself: there is more room to move round; there is more room to put the items; the fresh fruit and veg are on display (rather than squashed in the corner); and access to the church is now clear, which is important as lockdown restrictions are starting to ease.

You can see a video of it here:

We are extremely grateful to the Parochial Church Council for allowing this to happen, and we must stress that it is only for a trial period; we will review the project later in the year.

You will notice that we have bought a superb new store cupboard, and we thank Adrian Canvin for all his hard work in making sure that everything fits where it should.

We must point out that the money used to buy the cupboard and work surface was raised specifically for that purpose, and you can be rest assured that any money you donate to the Teign Valley Larder will go into buying food and essentials for those who need it most; we don’t have any other overheads.

While the larder was developed primarily to help families who may be short of food during the extremely difficult year we’ve had, it was also designed to help reduce food waste. So, if you think the larder isn’t for you, think again! There is always fresh fruit, vegetables and eggs donated by some of the lovely farms in the valley: Windout Farm, Teign Greens, and Whippletree Farm. If you like our Facebook page, you will get notified when new stock arrives. (When I last looked, there were red cabbages and purple sprouting up for grabs.) The only rule is to please exchange where you can, but there is no obligation.

March 2021: Make time for out of date

By Nathan Bushell

The Teign Valley Larder’s success depends on everyone using it, not just those in need, and here’s why.

The Teign Valley Larder was established during the first lockdown last year to help provide meals to those who may have gone without as household incomes were put under increased pressure.

Ten months on, and the success of this venture is evident: we can confidently say that the larder provides the equivalent of at least 150 meals a week, which is the result of a community pulling together to help those in need.

However, there is another aspect to the larder, the aims of which are just as vital as making sure people don’t go hungry: reducing food waste.

In fact, they aren’t two separate aims. They are two halves of the same problem, and it is uncomfortable to know that some families are going hungry while perfectly edible food is being discarded by others.

Rev Frampton Introduces Larder

Thankfully, there are members of the Teign Valley Larder who have built up connections in the region to divert food away from the waste incinerator to the larder’s shelves in Christow, Bridford, Ashton, Doddi and Dunsford.

And this food is there for everyone to enjoy.

There are clearly some people who are aware of the bounty available in those boxes, because we have had to recruit new volunteers to manage this aspect of the larder.

And it is important that this continues, because among the items with a ‘best before’ date that has already expired (but are still perfectly good to consume – nothing inedible makes its way on to the larder shelves) are lots of fresh vegetables and fruit that have been donated by local farms and retailers.

Our friendly local farms include: Windout Farm, Teign Greens, and Whippletree Farm. Other food comes from Food in the Community, South Devon Food Alliance, and other smaller organisations.

We do ask that other items are exchanged where possible, but this is definitely not a necessity. However, it is now starting to become a common sight, watching people walking through the villages with tins in hand to exchange for bananas, onions, potatoes, etc. It also becoming a common practice in households (typically round about teatime) to send a child down to the larder to see if a substitute can be found for something that was thought to be in stock at home.

It is worth noting that between May and Christmas last year, we saved at least 255kg (more than a quarter of a ton) of surplus fresh fruit, vegetables and longer life packaged food from being thrown away.

You can find the out-of-date items in the plastic crate on the floor in the church porch in Christow clearly labelled ‘Out of Date’. Fresh fruit and vegetables can be found on the vegetable rack on the table. When we get large amounts of fresh food, we also put this in the satellite larders in Ashton, Bridford, Doddi and Dunsford, and post a message on our Facebook page to let people know.

If you are clearing out your store cupboards and have out-of-date items to donate, please put them straight into the out-of-date box in the Christow church porch. Please don’t donate anything that has been opened, has damaged packaging, is more than a few months out of date, or (in the case of tins) has gone rusty.

And, again, thank you for helping to make the Teign Valley Larder a success.

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