RADDON STEPHENSON - CARITAS ALLOTMENT & COMMUNITY PANTRY | IN FOCUS
The Caritas Salford team supports people to improve their lives via a whole range of wrap around services, including food support, health and wellbeing support, social tariff access, Wood Street Mission referrals, Health Start referrals, utility support, accessing toys for Christmas and uniforms for the new school year, DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) benefits and housing.
Manchester Active Staff helped de-weed, re-compost and tidy up the allotment. Staff then also helped to unload food parcels for the Community Pantry located on site, and helped stock the shelves.
The day was thoroughly enjoyed by all staff who helped out, and we will certainly be back to help out in the future. Following the day, we caught up with Raddon Stephenson, one of the Centre Coordinators who supported us on the day.
Read on to hear about him, the work he does in the local community, and how you can get involved.
Tell us more about the work you do“I coordinate the running of a community allotment and food pantry based at the Lalley Centre in Collyhurst. My role is really varied, involving crop planning, hands-on food growing on the allotment, welcoming groups of adults and school classes for education and wellbeing activities and making sure that the food pantry deliveries and opening times run smoothly. I also help coordinate two teams of dedicated volunteers for the pantry and allotment, who are invaluable to making both services possible”.
how long have you worked at the allotment & community pantry, and why did you decide to work there?“I started working for Caritas at the Lalley Centre Community Pantry and Allotment in North Manchester in December 2022. I originally applied for the job because it combined helping both people and the environment through the nexus of food. Having previously studied sustainable food and worked in community gardening before, it seemed like a perfect fit for me”.
what do you enjoy the most about the work you do?“I’m very lucky to be able to work in a role where I have the space to experiment with how best to maximise both sustainable food production and the wellbeing benefits of getting more people engaged in gardening.
Seeing the vegetables we produce on the allotment being taken home by people at the food pantry gives me a real sense of satisfaction, knowing that those people will be eating locally grown, organic produce which they otherwise might not have had access to”.
how has the project grown & developed since you started working there?“Both our food provision service and the allotment at the Caritas Lalley Centre have developed significantly since I started in December 2022. With the food provision, we’ve moved from running a food bank for emergency referrals to a food pantry model which serves anyone in North Manchester who is struggling to get the food they and their families need.
Now, people pay £4 for a visit to the pantry and get to choose the items they want, within certain limits, which both volunteers and people attending have commented on as being a positive change. We still support people who need it for free, and the small amount that everyone else pays helps us to keep it going for everyone, as well as creating a more dignified shopping experience.
On the allotment, the first thing I wanted to work on when starting was creating new paths on all the large vegetable beds. This has helped to create more manageable sized patches for growing and means that we don’t have to walk all over the bed when tending to the plants growing there. Not trampling the soil has also helped with our switch to ‘no-dig’ gardening, which minimises disturbance to the soil to create a healthier environment for our plants to grow”.
how important has the support you've recieved been to the project?Both voluntary and financial support we’ve received over the last year have been absolutely vital to keeping the project going. Our regular volunteers in the pantry and centre, on the allotment and driving our electric van are invaluable to keeping the services running each week.
We’ve also hosted ten corporate teams who have donated a day or half-day of their time this year, helping with a range of tasks in the food pantry, centre and on the allotment. Some have also donated money or specific items we’ve needed, like compost for the allotment, which makes a real difference too.
Most recently, we have received funding support from Recycle for Greater Manchester to begin a project which will recycle food waste produced at our food pantry and the neighbouring St Malachy’s RC Primary School into compost using a Ridan composter.
I’m really excited about engaging the school pupils further in reducing and recycling food waste, as well as using the composter as an educational tool to encourage more people and organisations to take action against food waste across Greater Manchester. Without of the support of funders like R4GM, this project would not have been possible.
what has been your most memorable or stand out moment working at the centre?“A really memorable moment was in April this year when I and our Ukrainian Support Worker, Iryna, organised a morning for pupils from a local Ukrainian Saturday school to plant sunflowers on the community allotment. As the sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine, children and staff sang the Ukrainian national anthem after planting them which was really moving.
When the sunflowers grew up into giants over the summer, the tallest at 2.9 meters, it was lovely to see how much joy they brought visitors too. We’ve already saved some seeds for next year to do it again!”
how can people in manchester get involved?“There are lots of ways to get involved with Caritas Salford, from volunteering, donating financially, fundraising or campaigning – check out our new website to find our more here.
Right now, we are really in need of volunteers to drive our van and assist with the collection of donated food and other items across different Caritas Salford services. Even a few hours a week would really help to keep providing help to people who need it most, so please follow the link to Van Driver Volunteer if you can help with this.
At the Lalley Centre, we are also looking for new volunteers to help with our food provision service, on the allotment and in the centre itself. You can keep involved with our work by following and sharing updates on this and other Caritas Salford projects via both our website and social media.
And finally, if you are able to support Caritas Salford with a financial donation, please follow the donation link on our website to do so and to find out more about the vital services that you’ll be supporting”.
GET IN TOUCHThe allotment is always on the look out for new volunteers and support, so if you’d like to get your green fingers stuck in, learn how to get involved here or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org
discover moreTo find more volunteering opportunities across Manchester, visit here
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