In celebration of the first year of the Our Plymouth (Cities of Service) volunteer scheme, here are some highlights.
We marked the milestone on Wednesday 21 October. Plymouth was one of seven cities selected by the Cabinet Office and Nesta to take part in Cities of Service, based on a successful American project.
Since the initiative was launched, 12,500 portions of healthy food have been distributed through Grow, Share, Cook, Plymouth residents have saved £134,000 on their energy bills, and 117 volunteers have been recruited to the project. In addition, almost 2,000 residents have had conversations with our Energy Champion volunteers.
Initially focusing on two of the Fairness Commission’s priorities, ‘heating and eating’, the two main local volunteer projects under Our Plymouth are Grow, Share Cook and Energy Champions. Grow, Share, Cook sees the mobilisation of volunteers to grow more fresh fruit and vegetables, the development of community gardens and the distribution of the food to those in need, as well as healthy cookery sessions, while the Energy Champions project promotes energy efficiency across the city.
October 2014 – Our Plymouth is launched
We officially launched Our Plymouth and hosted a visit from Marcia Hope Goodwin, our mentor from the City of Orlando. Cities of Service is based on an American model introduced by Mayor Bloomberg, and each UK city taking part has a mentor from the US. Marcia met with Darin Halifax and Councillor Chris Penberthy, Cabinet Member for Co-operatives and Housing.
Marcia said: “It has been a great pleasure supporting and encouraging Darin and his Cities of Service UK team in Plymouth. The volunteer engagement and program outcomes that ‘Our Plymouth’ has achieved in its first year are outstanding! I look forward to seeing the program expand in the future and I wish my adopted city continued success.”
We also invited all the local Our Plymouth partners – Tamar Grow Local, Plymouth Energy Community (PEC), Plymouth Community Homes and Food is Fun – to Plymouth City Council’s headquarters at Ballard House to meet with local journalists and officially launch Our Plymouth.
Simon Platten, Project Manager for Tamar Grow Local said: “As an Our Plymouth partner we are now delivering 100 veg bags a fortnight to front doors across the city, all sourced from Tamar Grow Local growing projects, Tamar Valley growers or English farms which is fantastic both for the recipients who get really fresh food and the small local growers who are benefitting from increased sales.”
Tami Skelton, Nutritionist and Director of Food is Fun, said: “The most rewarding thing about being a delivery partner in the Grow, Share Cook project, has been seeing the big difference it has made to people’s lives.
“The people that have taken part in the cooking sessions with us have become much more confident through A having the access to more fresh vegetables by receiving free veg bags, and B having the knowledge of how to cook them.”
December 2014 – Our Plymouth at Christmas
In the run up to Christmas we promoted Our Plymouth and how the scheme can help those who may be struggling to make ends meet as they try to afford Christmas presents on top of the usual food and energy bills.
The Plymouth Fairness Commission estimated there are around 14,000 households in Plymouth living in fuel poverty, while Plymouth Foodbank saw over 8,000 users in 2013/14 and our soup runs provided over 23,000 meals in the same period.
At the time, Councillor Chris Penberthy, Cities of Service Ambassador for Plymouth, said: “The winter can be a particularly difficult time for many people, many are struggling to pay bills, heat their homes and afford good healthy food. While many people enjoy Christmas, it does bring added financial pressure to many people and for some it is simply unaffordable.”
Among events held in the run up to Christmas was an Energy Champions training session (pictured).
March 2015 – Councillors muck in at Morley Court
In March, Councillors including Councillor Ian Tuffin, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, mucked in with a Grow, Share, Cook, cookery session at Morley Court, taking part in a session with Food is Fun and local residents. In total, 12 families took part in the session at the Plymouth Community Homes property, and support was provided via councillors’ community grant schemes. Also involved were Councillor Chris Penberthy who is the Cities of Service Ambassador, and Councillor Sue McDonald, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Public Health.
Councillor Tuffin said: “We’re very pleased to be able to support more tenants to benefit from the healthy cooking sessions – it can be expensive to access fresh fruit and vegetables so the Our Plymouth scheme gives a great opportunity for people to try something new and healthy.”
April 2015 – Lord Mayor’s reception and Spring Bulb Giveaway
In April, Our Plymouth volunteers were invited to a special Lord Mayor’s reception to thank them for their hard work. Volunteers and representatives from partner organisations attended the reception at the Lord Mayor’s residence at Eliot Terrace.
At the time, the then Lord Mayor, Councillor Mike Fox, said: “I was very pleased to welcome the Our Plymouth volunteers to Elliot Terrace to say thank you on behalf of the city.”
Also in April, a Spring Plant giveaway was held at the Sundial on Armada Way to promote Our Plymouth and encourage people to ‘grow their own’. On the day, Tamar Grow Local gave away potted peas, beans and herbs, along with growing charts, pots and compost to get gardens, allotments and windowsills growing.
There was a seed swap for people to bring along their saved or spare seeds to swap for something different and a table where people could plant their own seeds in a pot to take away. In addition representatives from PEC attended to help recruit more Energy Champions and provide advice to people on renewable energy and saving money on their bills, as well as encouaraging people to take part in a competition to win a slow-cooker.
At the time, Darin Halifax, Chief Cities of Service Officer for Plymouth, said the event aimed to “inspire local people to grow their own fresh produce.”
Zoe Nile, Communities Survey Assistant for Plymouth Community Homes, said: “The wellbeing of our residents is something that is very important to us at Plymouth Community Homes which is why we want to support the Grow, Share, Cook project. Growing your own food is something anyone can do, however small your garden or kitchen windowsill and today is a great place to start.
August 2015 – Pots and Pans Amnesty
A pots and pans amnesty was held in August to encourage people to donate their unwanted pots and pans to those who need them.
A marquee was set up outside Plymouth Guildhall where people could come and donate and also find out about Our Plymouth’s Grow, Share, Cook and Energy Champions schemes.
The aim of the amnesty, which took place during Plymouth’s Flavour Fest food festival, is to encourage local people to get rid of their surplus, unwanted pots and pans and donate them to help others who can’t afford them. There are 8,000 people a year using food banks in Plymouth so the aim is to help those in the city who can’t afford healthy food.
October 2015 – Happy Birthday Our Plymouth!
A week of celebrations are held to mark the first anniversary of Our Plymouth, with local media attending a range of events, from a Grow, Share Cook cookery session with Tami and the Food is Fun team up at Plumer House, to an Energy Champions session up at Schneider Electrics.
Clare Mains, Volunteer Coordinator for Plymouth Energy Community, said: “Our energy volunteers are doing a great job helping Plymouth residents to make their homes warm, healthy and affordable.
“It doesn’t take a lot of time to make a huge difference and they’re using their new skills in their own homes too. What could be better than that?”
To find out more about Our Plymouth, contact Darin Halifax on 01752 305446 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Our Plymouth website can be accessed at www.ourplymouth.co.uk
You can also follow Our Plymouth on twitter at @ourplymouth