Reducing Food Waste and Feeding our Community
People and businesses are becoming more aware of food waste and they want to do something about it. At the same time, many local charities have established valued growing spaces which greatly contribute to community wellbeing and reduce food miles for the benefit of people and the planet. Our work under the theme of Food is no exception!
In 2021, Merton’s Community Fridge significantly contributed to reducing local food poverty and waste thanks to our incredible team of 30 Fridge Friends. Throughout the year, we had 2,000 visits to our Community Fridge and stopped 10,000 Kg of surplus food from going to waste. We also welcomed many new volunteers for whom the fridge is of great wellbeing value.
To help Merton residents reduce food waste, our Community Champions also created numerous resources including recipe cards and blogs on Food Waste and Covid and Simple Steps to Reduce Food Waste.
Mitcham Community Orchard and Gardens served as a haven for many during lockdown and underwent a wonderful transformation this year. After 12 monthly action days, the space has been rejuvenated and restored, worthy of its selection as Capital Growth's Spotlight Garden of the month for November, which culminated in our Spotlight Garden Open Day event. We welcomed people from the gardening community, Merton residents and our volunteers to share with them the garden with the aim to encourage more people to come and enjoy this wonderful oasis. The day included tours around the garden, bulb planting and much discussion around the importance of community gardens to both the environment and the local community following on from COP26. The Mayor of Merton, Cllr Michael Brunt, and Deputy Mayor, Cllr Edith Macauley (pictured below with Sustainable Merton Community Champions, Genevieve Escudier and Emily Sutton, and Sustainable Merton Projects and Campaigns Coordinator, Ellie Smallshaw) kindly visited on the day and planted an apricot tree, donated by Genevieve.
Our volunteers have worked hard tidying up areas, planting green manure and getting everything prepared for the next growing season. Other activities include painting the benches and making plans for the redesign of the pond area. Next year, many of the fruit trees will be pruned to keep them in a healthy state and the Orchard will be hosting several projects to get the local community engaged in food growing, gardening, and socialising.
For 2021/22, Sustainable Merton has been selected as the House Charity for Rokeby School. As part of this, we welcomed 33 students from Rokeby School to Mitcham Community Orchard and Gardens, who, despite the weather, got stuck in with clearing weeds around our fruit trees, feeding and mulching. During the morning the boys discovered a toad living in the mulching and we now have a sign to make sure Mr Toad remains undisturbed throughout the winter period. The students and their teachers were hugely enthusiastic, and a great help, we look forward to another visit in the Spring!
Phipps Bridge Community Garden has similarly expanded in 2021, welcoming many new Champions who were trained in a variety of gardening skills. 20% of the annual Phipps harvest was generously donated to Merton’s Community Fridge.
From January to November, our Community Champions have harvested just over half a tonne of produce - 537kg. This is a little lower than previous years due to a dry April, cold May, slugs, and snails in our polytunnel. Unfortunately, our runner beans never got going, tomatoes and potatoes were hit by blight and some crops (e.g. sweetcorn) suffered from drought in August. The most productive crops were:
Broad beans (23 kg)
Potatoes (272 kg)
Courgettes (78 kg from just 4 plants)
Onions (15 kg)
Purple sprouting broccoli (14 kg)
Apples (44 kg)
We still have parsnips in the ground, and cabbages (red and green) which are nearly ready to harvest and a good crop of winter lettuce. There's some chard and cavolo nero which we'll continue harvesting over the winter. Next year's broad beans are peeping through and the new broccoli plants are looking good.
This year, we took on an extra plot which had previously been very neglected and took a lot of work to clear and get into shape, but we were very ably supported by several new and keen Community Champions. As ever, the social side of the project is important and we look forward to another year of happy gardening together!
“It’s magical seeing something that you’ve planted in the earth and looked after, grow and produce food that I not only ate but also donated to the Community Fridge.”
Taylor - Sustainable Merton Community Champion (pictured below)
Gardening action didn’t stop there! In September, we held a #GoodFoodMerton Pop Up in Canons House and Grounds, Mitcham (see below), where we promoted Merton's Community Fridge, the importance of biodiversity and growing good food for all. We also started a small, but valuable growing space at Morden Baptist Church, right outside our Community Fridge. This provided Fridge Members with a space to learn about food growing, share a meal, and socialise.
"I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers for their hard work and love that they gave the garden this year, it has been revived to become a very special place for all the community."
Ellie Smallshaw - Projects and Campaigns Coordinator, Sustainable Merton
If you are interested in joining our community gardens please visit sustainablemerton.org/community-gardening
If you would like to become a Community Champion (including volunteering with Merton's Community Fridge), please visit sustainablemerton.org/champions