Prior to March Hands of Hope were delivering community projects from our site including Men in Sheds, Growing Buddies, Helping Hands Lunch Club, Bee in Company and Hedge-Hands however, due to COVID-19, during February all programmes were paused.
To tackle food-related issues as well as isolation and to sustain the longer term feasibility of our Walled Kitchen Garden Community site enabling continuing support to our Service Users and Volunteers, in March the Trustees decided to redirect our resources by creating an organic market garden, with the objective of growing organic, in-season produce to support the ever-increasing demand on local food banks and community support groups. It took 2 weeks to erect 2 large 30ft polytunnels as well as 26 x 100ft raised beds.
In July, we launched our new project “Get Growing” and initially began growing organic, in-season produce from our walled garden which was then delivered weekly, to local food banks including Rye Food Bank and Hawkhurst Community Support Group. As well as tackling food poverty, “Get Growing” aims to encourage as many people as possible to grow their own food, no matter what space they have – from window-sill to patio to garden to community space to allotment. With the provision of grow kits and remote supported learning, we are teaching our communities the skills and benefits associated with growing in-season, local food whilst offering them the opportunity to become part of the Get-Growing community. This project is a direct and innovative response to the current Covid-19 crisis that offers opportunities not only to create a positive outcome in the short term but also to extend the concept into a sustainable "Get Growing Community" with recognised and lasting mental and physical health and environmental benefits.