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My Yard - Rachel

City Harvest Festival 'Kindness is Powerful' Series

Rachel Dimond - founder of My Yard

My Yard is a registered charity based at Grange farm community centre in South Harrow that works for youth and communities in Harrow and Hertsmere.

City Harvest has delivered 30 tonnes of food = 71k meals

Preventing 110 tonnes of greenhouse gases

Retail value : £91,802

City Harvest began delivering free food to My Yard in 2017 freeing up their small budgets, enabling them to offer more diverse services and opportunities to unite and support deprived communities.

From coffee mornings, to community meals, food banks for families who can’t afford to eat, to children’s after school clubs and holiday activities - My Yard is helping people in the community that often no one else is helping. “We have many families in temporary accommodation, who sometimes are unable to work or are on very low incomes and struggle to feed their families”.

Rachel explains, “To really provide the right help, we need certain things. For example If I get a call from a mental health team member, explaining the person’s needs, I have to be flexible and find solutions. It could be they have no cooking facilities, have eating issues or disorders or simply special dietary needs. We love using surplus food as it reduces waste, but it’s crucial to work with charities like City Harvest who are able to really listen to us communicate our clients needs and therefore help and provide what we are desperate for.”

We love City Harvest because they actually care about what we need. No one else does. That’s what makes City Harvest unique, they understand that one size doesn’t fit all.

Rachel explained that many people moving between temporary accommodation lose work and family/support connections and are not in one place long enough to apply for universal credit. Areas that My Yard work in have seen a lot of food-poverty, gang issues and violence.

“As we got to know people, we realised a huge lack of social mobility and distrust in systems residents felt had failed them. The introduction of free food has helped reduce violence, the community, which as time went by enjoyed the deliveries started to take responsibility for volunteering to make sure it reached the most vulnerable as well as getting involved in cooking meals. Living in an overcrowded and often unfamiliar surrounding became less scary as people knew they could get to know each other and access regular healthy food .”

I set up My Yard to counteract social isolation, if people can be lifted before they dip too far, it is important. Coffee mornings for people to mix, using surplus food is a way to get to know each other. Be it collecting food parcels, coming to events or eating meals together.

What if you don’t have a social network? Simply because you don’t know anyone to ask for help. With limited options there are few reasons for you to create relationships. Displaced families, vulnerable people suffering from mental health issues, physical restrictions or poverty, all suffer from poor social mobility.

Social mobility relates to the movement of individuals, families, households, or other categories of people within or between social strata in a society. It is a change in social status relative to one's current social location within a given society.

"Creating connections over food has proved essential."

Things we take for granted as learned behaviour, such as advice absorbed from trusted family friends, help us navigate life with confidence.

Rachel explained, “Some people don’t know how to use a knife and fork, so if invited for a meal - they feel anxious and embarrassed. If invited out for a coffee, people wouldn’t have the money or know what to order?” Getting work experience is daunting if you don’t have the clothes to wear, money to get there, or confidence to thrive.

“By bringing the community together in their own safe space over food and start these conversation , they start to provide the support for each other that they need to feel confident and therefore able to ask for any extra help needed to seize opportunities to thrive.”

People relax when they eat together, it is easier to connect with other people.

EMPOWERMENT

The biggest learning has been to stop and understand the assets, rather than look for the needs. Everyone has something to offer so focus on that and build, Rachel explains, "If individuals are feeling isolated on what could be described as a difficult estate, then creating access to surplus food, which needs no voucher or token for the justification it is a great way for residents feel they can be heard and can lead. They enjoy giving out the food, it creates a positive sense of empowerment to help one another.”

For us, food is a tool to create solutions to a lot of problems.

"We love City Harvest because they actually care about what we need. No one else does. That’s what makes City Harvest unique."

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