How did you get started?
Project Grow began in 2020 during the pandemic, as a way of getting locally grown food to people. We started off small with food going to local pantries and food banks, but now we have 4 growing sites and partnership projects across Cheltenham.
When we first began giving food to local pantries during the pandemic, we found that they were not set up do deal with perishables, so it wasn’t getting to the right people and food was being wasted. So, we reached out to the other community growing groups out there, to ask how we could work together to get good food to those who need it.
Then Feeding Gloucestershire came along and helped to support us – we could do so much more together as a group than we could as individual growers – this group developed into Good Food Cheltenham in May 2023, and now there are around 20 organisations working together for good food in the town.
Who is involved?
Good Food Cheltenham’s core group covers food, sustainability, and hospitality, and our network partners range from local community gardens to local authority partners. For example, Project Grow are a Cheltenham project which produce plants and produce going to Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, care homes, and hospitals, but through Good Food Cheltenham we have been able to help collaborate to provide food for community hot lunches and a community fridge in St. Paul’s.
What are your core values and aims?
Project Grow grow ‘plants and produce with purpose’ and try to inspire other people to ‘grow it forward’ This fits really well with the wider vision of Good Food Cheltenham – to create a vibrant, healthier, sustainable, and more equitable food system across Cheltenham.
What impact do you think the project has had?
Project Grow, by working collaboratively with Good Food Cheltenham, has been able to create several impactful local pilot projects. The Fresh Hope Garden Project is a collaboration between a Project Grow site at the Community Rest Garden and the Fresh Hope Pantry just 0.2 miles away – fresh nature-friendly food goes to the pantry and any waste comes back to the garden to be composted, meaning micro food miles and a virtuous loop! There are 2 more pilot projects developing at the moment – the Heritage Hub Community Garden growing food for Wiggly (a Gloucestershire based cooking skills charity) and a Student Community Garden at Francis Close Hall Campus (part of the University of Gloucestershire) to try and help those students struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
What are the key challenges?
A key challenge is the lack of a cross sector action plan on food within Cheltenham, and lack of resources to deliver change on the ground.
What about the future?
To build a more diverse food system in Cheltenham, to continue what we’ve started and get more people involved, as well as highlighting the benefits of good food. Project Grow are also excited to be working with the RHS this year as well – helping to explore growing in a changing climate.