The Co-operative Resurgence

Food Food growing Sustainable Living Uncategorized

It’s week 8 of lockdown, I had just sat my last university exam and after 2 months of being a slave to my desk I was finally free. I’d seen my textbooks more than my family, my dog more than my friends and was hungry for human contact, and to feel part of something again. Yesterday was my first day volunteering at FFCK (Falmouth Food Co-op and Kitchen), established a few months before lockdown with the aim of hosting community dinners. From hosting 2 dinners and feeding 200 people at each, FFCK has been quick to adapt to this surreality. Now having cooked nearly 3500 meals for the vulnerable population living along the coast of the Fal Estuary.

We use local farmers ingredients, supplemented with bulk orders from the newly established local wholesaler, and create a breadth of dishes. Here Jessie is seen portioning out lemony squash feta and chickpea couscous. As many of those served are quite elderly striking the balance between achieving a comforting recognisable meal for them, while packing it full of colanders of nutritious veg and pulses, has been a challenge.

Days start early and are spent chopping, stirring and packing 4 sustaining meals for around 80 people – meaning each day with FFCK around 320 meals are packed and shuttled to homes, supported housing and the homeless. Catering for peoples allergic requirements, food needs and comforts have been key, and with the help of Toot’s (seen scraping off some not so meaty meatballs) culinary ingenuity complaints are few and far between.

Charlotte is the logistical legend for the Monday’s and Thursdays FFCK troop. Having a hotline has been a lifeline for the older clients who struggle with accessing websites. The admin that lies in the wake of the co-operative is a necessary evil which Charlotte tackles without complaint. Enjoying the privilege of talking to those who are anxious and struggling in lockdown, listening to their stories and taking on some of their anxieties writes a  memorable narrative into Char’s lockdown story.

A week ago I had finished my exam, was obsessively knitting hats and staring at my veg patch wondering what I’m going to do with myself, but now I’m part of this beautiful co-operative. This dynamic learning process, which is already supporting hundreds of vulnerable households and making change in the community, even in a time where community can appear so fragmented. I feel extremely lucky to be in a position to be a part of this, but if you start asking questions and calling community centres you can unearth pre-pandemic community again near you. In this resurgence of co-operatives many of us can find ways to apply ourselves, so that we leave this societal pause feeling more resilient, more co-operative and more in touch with our communities than before.

While I resent that fact that there’s no Aikmans couch to go and lounge on, and no Edenesque botanical gardens to find peace in, living with 2 of these forces of nature on the barge, and being able to spend an evening after a hard days work enjoying a couple of sundown bears on the beach is hard to fault – and a necessary therapy preparing us for round two in a couple of days time.

That’s all for today, I hope you enjoyed this little article and feel inspired to find your nearest food, kitchen or farming co-operative near you!

Luke Barlow, The Arc, Penryn River

lwb2@st-andrews.ac.uk for any questions.