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Charity plotting help for those on the breadline

'Growing spaces’ on disused land to allow residents to cultivate their own food

23 October, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Octopus Community Network is helping set up 10 food hubs, offering people access to healthy meals

A CHARITY is turning disused open spaces in Islington into vegetable plots to help feed families who are living below the breadline.

Octopus Community Network aims to create eight new “growing spaces” for com­mun­ities to cultivate their own food and help set up 10 community food hubs offering access to food and healthy meals to residents in need over the next five years.

The group says Covid-19 has exposed alarming levels of food insecurity, an issue it has been helping to address by delivering more than 40,000 cooked meals or food parcels since the start of the pandemic.

Octopus, which has already set up 20 growing spaces and four food hubs, is branching out to new parts of the borough after receiving a £186,400 grant from City Bridge Trust – the City of London Corporation’s charity funder.

Julie Parish, Octopus Community Network development manager, said: “People from outside think Islington is an affluent area
but almost half the children in the borough are growing up in poverty.

“What we’ve found during the pandemic is that a lot of people are used to buying ready meals and the idea of cooking a meal from scratch is alien to them.

“We’ve had aubergines sent back because people don’t know what to do with them.

“We’re able to help people access healthy food without the stigma that comes with going to a food bank and to build up the connection between where food comes from and what’s on your plate, and there’s also a therapeutic element from getting your hands in the soil and meeting new people.”

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