Heart of the Community

02 October 2019 | North West England

Kindness box

Incredible Edible is about more than sharing food, it breaks down barriers.

Every first and third Sunday of the month, up to 50 residents of Todmorden in Yorkshire get together, all bringing fresh ingredients to be cooked by a group of volunteers.

Once the meal is prepared, they will all sit together at the table, and share the meal, as well as friendship and a sense of community.

It is part of Incredible Edible, a community scheme that started out simply growing and sharing food, but has become something much more.

“This week we had some members of the local Thai community cook, says Mary Clear, one of the founders. "It was fabulous, obviously. We are not a wealthy town, we are a very mixed town, with lots of different ethnicities and groups. But we all get on and love to come together. There can be up to 50 of us at these dinners.

“When we eat together, that is the best bit of the day. We don’t really care for gardening at all. We have 80-year-olds, and babes in arms. This is what we care about, we call it the power of the table. Caring and sharing, that is what it’s all about. That is what Incredible Edible is all about. I believe we are hard-wired to be good and give back. I had no idea how much this movement would grow, but obviously I am proud.”

Incredible Edible started when two women began turning disused verges in the former mill town of Todmorden into free food plots in 2008. Such has been the phenomenal response to their project that it has gone on to inspire a global movement of growers. There are now more than 1,000 Incredible Edible groups worldwide.

“We don’t really care for gardening at all, it’s really just all about showing kindness. Incredible Edible really is a movement about community, so we are interested in reconnecting people with each other and with the wider community,” explains Mary, 64.

“We are modelling kindness and we are growing food in public places and we are saying anybody can help yourself. But it is not just about gardening, it is about kindness. And it has spiralled into being much more than food, it is about community and coming together for the greater good. There is no cost to joining us and there is no membership. We are a non-profit organisation too.”

She adds: “There are some people with poor mental health, so it is good to get out and actually chat to people.”

Incredible Edible recently launched a new Kindness Boxes initiative. They place cupboards and cabinets in three locations around the town with a shelter over them to protect the contents.

People are encouraged to fill the cabinets with things they no longer need and the idea is to share what you have with others who may need it. There is also a Facebook page where you can let people know what you have left.

Mary explains: “There are three main locations currently, and we even have a local baker who puts in his leftover bread in at the end of the day. I have since heard that little micro-community initiatives have started across the town, in cul-de-sacs replicating what we do with their own little kindness boxes. That is amazing to me.

“It makes me feel so proud that we are living in a community where if there is a call out because someone needs something, then we can come and help them with that. We all have far too much as a society, most of which we don’t need, so why not give it to someone who does.

She adds: “The main thing is that it is not just for the needy. No money is changing hands. It is just beautiful to me that citizens are being kinder to each other.”

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