A Llangollen community group has graduated from holding coffee mornings to playing a vital role in the fight against pandemic hardship by feeding up to 40 households a week.
Llangollen Foodshare, which began 18 months ago in the Pengwern Community Centre as a project to prevent food waste going into landfill, has moved into new premises in the heart of the town and is reaching out to even more people.
Supported by South Denbighshire Community Partnership (SDCP), an additional £20,000 in funding has been secured from Community Foundation Wales and the National Lottery Community Fund.
This has allowed the fitting out of new kitchen and storage rooms at the venue on Castle Street. It has also enabled the appointment of a part-time project officer to support the operational needs of the project.
The volunteer team behind the project are members of the community who started holding coffee mornings with the Friends of Pengwern and passed on food donated by local food suppliers to families facing challenging circumstances.
Project volunteer and committee member Kirsty Wild said: “It began when Emma Davies, former Chair of Friends of Pengwern Residents’ Association, started collecting surpluses which enabled the coffee morning to run.
“It started with surplus food from the Co-op and Aldi which we shared, but then with Covid it became clear that more and more people were struggling for food.
“Emma, myself and another former colleague, Jane Townend, developed the project by collecting more surplus food and sharing it more widely, following further voluntary involvement from Steph Mitchell, Lesley Greasley, Heulwen Wright and Jen Davis.”
The pandemic saw the demand for the service increase significantly and they have regularly been providing food parcels for over 130 people.
Kirsty added: “People’s situations were changing very quickly as many families were having to come to terms with self-isolation, unemployment, furlough and increased demand placed on family units from home schooling etc
“There is a perception of Llangollen as a well-to-do little town but you only have to look at the number of children on free school meals and the self-employed people whose work has dried up in the pandemic.
“This said, Llangollen is such a fantastic community with many generous people, groups and retailers who donated many food items and money contributions.”
Llangollen Foodshare has benefited from support from SDCP, which has recently captured further funding from the Big Lottery Fund to expand their community activities and services into the Llangollen area, as part of their Your Place or Ours Project.
Kirsty said: “SDCP have made a huge difference to us. It was crucial for us to find other more suitable premises than those at the Friends of Pengwern.
“It meant we could be supported to rent and fit out the premises and importantly appoint a paid member of staff, who can help the group develop a sustainable future in our own right. Without SDCP we wouldn’t have been able to get us to this point.”
Jess Horner, the recently appointed Llangollen Food Share Coordinator for SDCP, said: “The site is in a prime position backing onto the main car park in the town and is in walking distance for most of our clients.
“It’s perfect for us and we are just looking to get more volunteers with a variety of skills so that we can deliver even more services such as cooking hot meals here on the premises.
“It has been very positive, the way the local community has backed us and we are so grateful for all the donations.
“One of our aims is to reduce food waste so we are happy to receive anything that is within its sell-by and use by date, is non-perishable and un-opened, so that we can distribute to those in real need. Unfortunately, we are unable to accept home cooked meals.”
In the last three years SDCP have built up a wide portfolio of services for the Edeyrnion area around Corwen including meals-on-wheels, a lunch club, community transport including electric vehicles, green energy generation and grocery and prescription delivery services.
It is hoped that the new premises in Castle Street, accessed via the Market Street Car Park, will also provide a home for Citizens Advice Denbighshire and for SDCP to support other local groups.
SDCP’s Strategic Implementation Officer, Tom Taylor said: “Llangollen already had a number of fantastic groups like Food Share and we are now aiming to work alongside many of them.
“The Food Share Project volunteers are a very committed and enthusiastic group who have worked tirelessly to ensure families facing difficulties receive a worthwhile service.
“Throughout the pandemic they have remained determined to respond to increased demands and coordinated much-needed resources. It’s a commendable project with genuinely lovely people.
“We will now continue to work closely with the Food Share Committee so they can ensure a sustainable future for project, so as to meet the needs of Llangollen residents and the surrounding area.”