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New fund aims to grow friendships

A new community-led project aiming to promote community cohesion through a shared love of food can begin to sow its seeds thanks to £89,657 of government funding.

CMF - Grow It

'Grow it, Cook it, Share it, Compare it' can now get underway in Fenland after Communities Secretary Sajid Javid announced on Thursday, July 20, that Fenland District Council's bid to the Controlling Migration Fund (CMF) had been successful.

The project was one of the first allocations from the CMF, with grants totalling £15 million being awarded to local councils to help ease pressures on services such as housing, schooling and health services resulting from recent migration.

Fenland District Council has received the award on behalf of a consortium including ACCESS - Supporting Migrants in East Anglia, Groundwork East and Clarion Housing.

'Grow it, Cook it, Share it, Compare it' aims to break down barriers between resident and migrant communities by encouraging people from different nationalities and backgrounds to work together to grow and cook fruits and vegetables from their cultures, and then share and compare them with others.

The two-year project will be delivered in two phases. Working with Job Centre Plus, the first phase will see around 12 long-term unemployed volunteers from different communities, and with an interest in a career in horticulture or construction, recruited to a Green Skills team.

The team will then work on a number of sites including local allotments and school grounds to create raised beds for growing vegetables, as well as community BBQ areas; gaining qualifications at the same time.

In phase two, after the sites have been created, parents with young children from the different communities will be invited to receive training and support to grow their own produce and cook using fresh ingredients in a fun, learning environment. Communities will be able to interact further through monthly 'bring and share' feasts.

Fenland District Council's bid to the CMF said the integration of immigrants into existing communities is currently very limited, with crime and fear of crime being a major factor. But by giving individuals the opportunity to interact and develop friendships through a shared goal, it is hoped the project will develop integration and foster acceptance of each other.

Councillor Mike Cornwell, Fenland District Council's Portfolio Holder for Cohesion, said: "This community-led project will bring people from all different backgrounds and nationalities together through a love of food. It will help people to better understand other cultures and values in an informal and relaxed environment, and promote healthier eating too."

Announcing the CMF grants, Mr Javid said: "Migration brings great benefits to this country but, in some places, significant population changes in a short space of time have put pressures on public services.

"This new funding will help councils rise to the challenge in a variety of ways - whether that's tackling the small minority of rogue landlords who damage neighbourhoods with overcrowded properties, providing English language classes to make sure migrants can better integrate and understand their rights and responsibilities or boosting the number of teaching assistants in schools to ensure all children get excellent teaching."

Lord Bourne, Minister for Faith, added: "Local councils have clearly drawn on their knowledge of their areas to submit strong proposals.

"This funding will help provide practical solutions for local communities so that councils can improve services for everyone. We will keep a keen eye on progress and make sure other councils can learn from their experiences to see what works best."

Article added: July 20, 2017