Southmead Development Trust: Learning and connecting through food and growing

Children at The Ranch
Ella Tainton

Ella Tainton, Project Officer at Southmead Development Trust, writes about inspiring initiatives to engage families and staff with good food. The team is always looking for volunteers to support sessions, so get in touch if you are able to volunteer.

The easing of restrictions has meant that all of us at Southmead Development Trust have enjoyed seeing our staff and community in person again. Colleagues have been meeting more and we’ve been able to offer our youth and play sessions at The Ranch. This has brought with it a renewed appreciation for food and growing as instruments for engagement, learning and connection.  

The Ranch is our community’s much-loved adventure playground. The team was really excited to welcome children and young people back in person. Over the Easter holidays, we provided eight days of activities and food. With funding from the Department for Education’s Holiday Activities and Food Programme, we teamed up with Travelling Kitchen who provided hot, nutritious meals cooked from scratch.

Sarah and Clare, the Travelling Kitchen team said, “Our founding principle was that everyone has a right to good, nutritious food. Meals consisted of old favourites such as lasagne, salad and macaroni cheese, but we were also keen to introduce some possible new dishes like spinach and coconut dhal, koftas and falafel with couscous.

“Some days we encouraged children to get involved, rolling flatbreads, making their own pizzas and hot cross buns. We find that when children are involved with making their food they are more likely to eat it and try new things.”

By the end of our eight day Easter programme we had served 375 meals and worked with 42 families.

For May half term we hosted a Wild Day with Bristol’s own conservationist Steve England leading a search for horse chestnut leaves to make soap and wild garlic for butter. Engaging children and young people with ingredients in a way that is playful and entertaining (read messy!) means food can be fun, not just fuel.

However, it’s not just the younger members of our community who have enjoyed getting stuck in. A few members of our staff have created a garden group to connect with each other and the outdoors, creating a lunch and meeting space in what has been named Greenway Garden.

Clearing space for the Greenway Garden

So far, we’ve cleared some brambles (with the two big bags going to feed the goats at Street Goat), restored an old raised bed and bench and planted herbs. Our aim is to entice more pollinators and have some tasty pickings for our lunches. Future ideas include creating a winding path through the trees, a plant identifying session and a crafting activity to make bird feeders. We’re also lucky to have a few apple trees which we’re hoping to harvest in autumn!

The importance of our outdoor spaces is even clearer since COVID-19. We believe this is vital as we re-enter our work and play spaces. We’re looking forward to continuing to engage with food and growing spaces so our community, volunteers and staff can enjoy the outdoors (and a yummy treat), get respite from screens and connect with each other.

The Ranch (Southmead Adventure Playground) is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays 3:30-5:30pm. We’re always looking for volunteers to support our sessions, so get in touch

By setting the wheels in motion now, together we can transform the future of food in our city, building in resilience over the next decade. So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.

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