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Our intergenerational Recipe for Life project, funded by Barking & Dagenham Council from 2018 to 2019, brought together local families on low incomes from many different backgrounds to cook and eat together at Dagenham Farm.
The project started in summer 2018 with the refurbishment of the pavilion and the old bowling green, right next to the farm. Redevelopment was delayed after we discovered some asbestos in the building, but we got there in the end.
We created flower beds on the bowling green (laying the ground for our Dagenham flowers project) and barrowed 12 tonnes of green waste compost onto the beds as part of a community work day – Shovel for a Scone – with help from a group of local volunteers, including members of the adjacent Rugby Club and the local business community.
Bulbs went in straight away, while other flowers were raised from seed in the polytunnels on the farm.
For the orchard, we bought 49 apple trees of different varieties to ensure a long blossoming/fruiting season. We prepared the beds and planted the trees during a series of community events, including some specifically for groups with mental health issues.
We hosted several other successful community outreach events as part of the Recipe for Life programme.
We worked with a group of local mothers and children from Lifeline Projects’ Create your Future programme, which works with isolated and marginalised women, plus the group’s co-ordinator Christina Ford.
One session included farm tours, harvesting veg and cooking using a microwave and urn – to replicate the limited cooking facilities that might be available to participants. We included a childcare session worker as part of the day, which enabled the young children to have supervised play and craft activities while the mothers had a chance to enjoy cooking and socialising together. The women, none of whom had English as a first language, really enjoyed visiting the farm, as they said it reminded them of their childhood gardens. They thought the food was delicious, the staff warm and friendly, and were appreciative that their children were being looked after nearby. They were very keen to come back to the farm for future sessions.
Another session hosted local parents and children from Mums on a Mission, a local grassroots group of young mums and carers working to tackle poverty and improve their children’s lives. The older children were keen to be involved in preparing the dessert – and eating all the food! – and this was very successful. One of the other benefits of the workshop was that the children were able to play outside in the pavilion space – collecting snails, leaves and flowers – which is not normally something they have access to.
We also ran a Recipe for Life Holiday Workshop during October half-term, giving local children a chance to explore the farm, enjoy a shared lunch and carve pumpkins.
Our intergenerational Tea Parties introduced young people from William Bellamy school and Assisted Learner students from Barking and Dagenham College to older residents in a warm and friendly environment.
The Recipe for Life project was featured on Jamie Oliver’s TV programme Meat-Free Meals, when he described it as a “culinary United Nations” and an “incredible community project with veg at its heart”. Watch the clip here.