A community food co-operative that offers affordable and fresh local fruit and vegetables has been launched in the Caerphilly borough.
An average of 60 – 70 bags of fruit and vegetables are distributed every week by the food co-op that operates out of St John’s Church hall, Nelson. It was set up last November following a £600 grant from the Diocesan Mission Fund.
The Revd Gareth Coombes, priest-in-charge of the parish of Treharris, Trelewis, Bedlinog and Llanfabon said, “We started the food co-op as we were looking for a mission project to identify, develop and strengthen links between the church and the community and to highlight the re-ordering project that is planned for St John’s Church.”
It operates every Thursday from 11.30pm to 1.30pm. The bags of fresh fruit and vegetables cost £3 each and include a stew pack, Mediterranean bags, stir fry as well as seasonal fruit and veg.
The co-operative is open to everyone – people need to simply turn up, order their bags, pay and then collect their fresh produce the following week. Healthy Start vouchers for families on certain benefits and low income are also accepted.
It is run by local volunteers with all the fruit and veg being supplied by local supplier Veg of Evans of Ystrad Mynach. The food co-op also offers a meeting place for the community by providing a soup lunch and other light refreshments; some of which are provided by the local Co-op store. Any donations received for refreshments support the refurbishment project planned for St John’s.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for mission, because as well as promoting healthy eating by providing fresh fruit and vegetables at affordable prices, it is a great way that the church is able to reach out into the community in a very practical way,” said Father Gareth.
“Both the volunteers who help run it and the users come from various communities around the parish – it is drawing people in and already we are seeing the benefits with one of the local pubs donating the proceeds from a series of quiz nights to the refurbishment project.”
Bishop June said, “I applaud the work of this popular food co-op which is a new initiative for the Church in Nelson and is meeting a real need. Fresh fruit and veg can often be skimped on when money is tight so this is a fantastic way of offering people affordable fresh produce. It shows how the Church cares for the whole person, for their physical needs as well as their spiritual needs, it supports local suppliers, and it gives people a chance to meet together. It’s an inspiring example of the Church in that community making a difference.”
Sandra James, (pictured below) who has been using the food co-op every week since Christmas said, “I have lived here most of my life so I am very happy to support something that will benefit both the church and the village.”
Churchwarden Alison Francis said, “The food co-op is already proving extremely popular and is bringing people into the church hall who would not normally come to church and this is helping us to build links and strengthen fellowship within the village.”
The £200,000 re-ordering project centres on the complete refurbishment of St John’s Church including the installation of a kitchenette and toilet facilities. Urgent repairs will be carried out to the tower and the floor of the church and the pipe-organ will be refurbished.
The project which hopes to start early next year will be funded by grants and fundraising by the parish. Once the repair and refurbishment work is completed, the many groups that currently meet in the church hall will be able to move into the church. These range from Mothers’ Union to Brownies, Slimming World and a local choir.
“The refurbishment project is going to greatly enhance this much-loved church building and keep it at the heart of community life here in Nelson,” said Fr Gareth.
Whether its funding for a food co-op, the creation of a new lay post or support for summer club activities – the Diocesan Board of Finance has many grants available to help parishes make their vision a reality.For more details on what grants are available and how to apply visit http://llandaff.churchinwales.org.uk/parish-resources/
Pictures of food co-op