Hartcliffe Health and Environment Action Group, Bristol, South West
Region: South West
Type: Food Co-ops, food growing, nutrition and cookery
Legal/organisation structure: Registered charity & company limited by guarantee
Hartcliffe Health and Environment Action Group (HHEAG) is a community development project set up by local residents in 1990 as a response to health concerns. The results of a survey carried out by the local community and health workers stirred local residents into action. Two open meetings were held where local people were asked if they would like to see a project develop where local people got together (with support and help from local workers) to see what they could do to make positive changes in their community. The meetings resulted in local residents setting up a steering group and what is now known as HHEAG began to take shape. Small amounts of start up funding were secured from the local authority and health promotion department and later the project receive three years funding from the Urban Programme. Initially, small volunteer-led activities, such as clearing litter and dog mess, were pursued. Since then the project has developed into a diverse project addressing social, environmental and health issues through local action.
HHEAG's activities are open to residents living in the geographical area of Hartcliffe and Withywood in south Bristol, an area described by residents as one in which deprivation and poverty are compounded by geographic isolation from services and facilities in the rest of Bristol. The area has one of the highest concentrations of social housing in the South West, a high percentage of lone parent households, high levels of unemployment, and high levels of crime and drug use. The area falls within the top 20% of the most deprived wards in England.
Managed by local people, the project works to improve the lives of local people by engaging residents in both health-related and environmentally sustainable activities. By working together on issues which affect people's lives, local residents have the opportunity to influence the development of their community.
HHEAG's activities fall into three main areas, food and health, environment and children's activities. All of the work done through HHEAG is rooted in community development and the project aims to link all areas of work to offer an holistic programme of support and activities for the community.
- Community cookery. This project has, over a number of years, run a wide variety of cooking activities including; ante-natal groups, giving nutritional advice, cookery for new and young mums, weaning support and healthy eating, and Feed Yourself Fit - a series of cook and taste classes for people with diet-related illnesses.
- Food for All co-op. The food co-op aims to increase access to and affordability of healthy whole foods, including local and organic, for local people. It is supported by a core staff member and is run by volunteers.
- Sow and Grow project. This encourages local residents to grow their own fruit and vegetables by providing horticultural training and learning opportunities at a community garden and allotment site. A gardening group meets weekly and has 10 regular growers. The tutor is on site twice a week, 48 weeks a year. Surplus fruit and vegetables are sold to the food co-op.
- Community Market Garden. Developed on council allotment sites, the market garden has been designed to improve opportunities for local people to obtain fresh fruit and vegetables by supplying produce for the Food for All co-op, and other local outlets such as schools. The project also offers training opportunities to local people. The growing is overseen by the Market Garden Manager. There is a part time gardener and two trainee placements. Over the next few years the Market Garden will aim to become commercially viable (see The future).
- Children's activities. Out-of-school activities for local children aged 4-11 years, with a focus on health and environment, include an after school club, holiday play schemes, Saturday clubs, family camps and day trips.
- Walking the Way to Health programme. Regular walks, for local residents, encourage physical activity and improve fitness.
HHEAG is a charity and company limited by guarantee with a number of paid staff who are accountable to an unpaid management committee. Currently, staff include; a Co-ordinator, three core project staff members (covering the three areas of work, health, environment and children), an administrator and a finance worker. Some projects have additional workers and/or session workers. The project is managed by a management committee of local residents who have participated in the various projects, with one co-opted member (there are currently eight members). There are also a number of key volunteers and regular volunteers supporting the project.
The project has a number of grant funders, both local and national, including;
- Bristol City Council
- Bristol and South West Primary Care Trust
- Comic Relief
- Community Fund (now the Big Lottery)
- CSV Environment
- Greater Bristol Foundation
- Imperial Park Regeneration Fund
- Neighbourhood Renewal
- Single Regeneration Budget SRB5
- Tudor Trust
The project has also benefited from support in kind, including business and IT support from a range of organizations.
The project costs around £250,000 per year. With several sources of funding coming to an end (both core and project funding) and not likely to be refunded, the project staff and management committee are exploring ways to develop various elements of the project as social enterprises/community businesses in order to generate income and be less reliant of grant funding. Potential areas include the market garden, the food co-op, and an outside catering business.
HHEAG is a long standing, very successful project. However this longevity, as with many community food projects, does not benefit the project when it comes to refunding, as many funders prefer innovation to longevity. The project staff and management committee recognise they need to look at other ways of generating income in addition to grant funding and they have a good idea about what they need to be doing so that the project survives. However they also recognise they do not currently have the skills to do that and lack capacity (time and money) to address the skills shortage.
The various core projects run by HHEAG (see above) are each developing business plans with support from a local enterprise network. This support is provided free but is somewhat restricted and is not exactly what the project needs at this stage of the process. Those involved believe that a long term mentoring service, tailored to the particular needs of this project, would be more beneficial.
HHEAG are currently exploring the potential to develop various activities as community businesses. They are developing plans to run an outside catering business and to expand the Food for All co-op. They are also currently developing a business plan to run the market garden as a commercially-sized social enterprise.
Hartcliffe Health and Environment Action Group
The Gatehouse Centre
Bristol, BS13 9JN
Tel: 0117 946 5285
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