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Supporting Communities That We Might Not See…..

By Sara Venn

At Incredible Edible we have done a lot of thinking about what constitutes a community and how we can really ensure that when we are contacted by people about beginning new groups, everyone, no matter their circumstance, can be involved. But what might that look like if you are a part of a community that is closed. Whether that’s a prison, hospital, approved premises, a school or a university, what’s important is to look at what the community looks like and how the Incredible Edible ethos might support it.

So as an example we looked at a prison. Whilst obviously there are prisoners, there are also staff, which of course includes not just prison officers but people offering education, clerics, office and healthcare and countless others. Then there are visitors which of course includes not just visitors to prisoners but also legal representatives, friends of groups, and many many others. So this is a busy community, where recreation and learning opportunities are both needed and welcomed by all, and where getting outside and learning about food growing and nature are both educational and a great, therapeutic opportunity. But it’s also an opportunity for people to learn skills that could lead to employment opportunities, and support better choices outside the prison environment. Education opportunities within prisons could also lead to recognised qualifications and skills learnt can be taken back into the communities people come from to help support growing in those places.

Most people in closed communities are vulnerable and that vulnerability has often meant that poverty, homelessness and a lack of connection to their community, but an Incredible Edible group within that space can lead to feeling that there is a sense of purpose to life, learning new skills, whether growing or cooking, away from the eyes of an often scathing public and supporting self belief and confidence.

So on a practical level what might this look like and how as Incredible Edible groups can we support these groups to happen. Probably the first thing is to get in touch with any local place that you can think of, be that a prison, hospital or another closed space. Offer to go in and chat with staff, or management about Incredible Edible and how creating a community around food and growing would support their work. Often there will be some growing going on so it’s possible to support that and look at how that growing can morph into supporting a connected community within the space. Find out what their concerns and issues are and see how by coming together through growing and cooking, solutions to those issues can be found. Eating together and sharing food supports the ethos of kindness that we bring with us as Incredible Edible groups but that also changes outlooks and perceptions of community that can be very powerful in an enclosed space. A prison run with kindness as it’s core ethos?

And what’s to say the group couldn’t in some way, support their wider Incredible Edible regional community? Growing plug plants and seedlings for groups in the area, and supporting the regional groups might be a really great way of being included in the wider community, but there’s also another way. Most people leaving any type of secure environment find it hard to fit into the community in which they find themselves but imagine already knowing that you had a group who would welcome you with kindness into the community and appreciate the skills you bring with you, and who might already be growing plants that you had started off? Wouldn’t that be Incredible?