Food Troops: Nourishing Community, One Meal at a Time

March 2024

Food Troops is among four thousand spaces on the Warm Welcome map. It originally began as a project to promote healthy eating in Cornwall. However, with the onset of COVID, it grew beyond being a local place for plant-based recipes and cooking; it's now an inclusive hub for people of all ages and cultures. 

The space is committed to creating a welcoming environment, ensuring that families in the area feel a sense of community, stability, and nourishment throughout the year.

Planting Seeds of Social Connection

Set against the backdrop of an Eco Green Roof building with a charming glass house awaiting restoration, Food Troops is a space for people to cook together and support each other. Families come together to learn about food, while gardeners grow the food in collaboration with the space users. 

Originally set up by Carrie Vallance as a series of family friendly cookery classes she could run alongside teaching her own children, Carrie soon recognised the need for more skills to be taught in the kitchen from a young age, whilst realising the barriers preventing people from accessing healthy wholesome meals in people of all ages. The space in Victoria park allowed for both of these activities to happen simultaneously, while working in partnership with Cornwall Council.

Rosi Jolly, who works at the Warm Space alongside a team, also manages the family provision for a local charity during the week. Through her day-job, she had noticed the positive impact communal eating and food preparation was having on the families she serves. "It encourages people to try something they haven’t tried before,” she said.

Activities as an Anchor

The team makes sure that this social element underpins the culture at their Warm Welcome Space. They achieve this by going beyond what a traditional food project provides. They host gardening sessions, offer pay-as-you-can larders through food redistributor, Fareshare, and provide a supportive environment for sharing meals and experiences. 

"We use the collected food to serve at our events, fostering an understanding of food sources and dismantling the stigma associated with food assistance services.” Rosi noted that this is important because it helps families in need overcome obstacles to receiving available support.

The team tries to create a seamless experience between the kitchen area and the gardens so that people feel closer to nature whilst in the space.  There is a dedicated area within the communal garden for people to be in the fresh air and get their hands dirty in the soil. “It has a great impact on people’s mental health.” 

Beyond the Plate: Communal Stability

Rosi describes the warm space at Food Troops as festive, positive, intergenerational, multicultural, and one that offers lots of transferable skills. “On a typical day, you’ll see a scene of a two-year-old chopping mushrooms alongside an older adult. The aim is to improve health and wellbeing, while creating a community that grows and thrives together.” 

As the winter season unfolded, the space provided stability and warmth for many by remaining open during the Christmas holidays. "Holidays can be very challenging for families from a child care perspective, even financially, so we make sure to be available during that period. During that time of the year we offer a bigger warm welcome space for people to come, enjoy a meal and a mince pie, and feel the stability we provide.” 

To discover more about Food Troops and learn more about the positive impact it has on its community, visit their Facebook page.

While enriching the lives of families in Cornwall, Food Troops exemplifies the holistic nature of Warm Welcome Spaces. Beyond serving meals, it nurtures a sense of belonging, challenges stereotypes, and acts as a vital resource for the community. To learn more about Warm Welcome’s approach to inclusion, read this blog by our Inclusion Lead, Emeka Forbes. 

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