Thus autumn, before Lockdown 2.0, Sauce met Amanda Turner and Gemma Heath, co-founders of Collective Skills Project, to find out more about their projects building community through food in Hartshill and Penkhull.

Firm friends Amanda and Gemma met through their work for a Thames river boat event company, and launched their community interest company (CIC) Collective Skills Project in 2019. Their aim is reducing loneliness and isolation by bringing people in their local communities together to develop and share key life skills.

This December, Collective Skills Project have launched their latest project in collaboration with Feasted and Sanctuary Ale House, with funding and support from Hartshill and Harpfields Residents’ Association Events and The Community Foundation for Staffordshire. The Teatime Tuesday project aims to help Hartshill residents who are struggling financially due to the impact of COVID-19. The team will be distributing free meal bags containing all of the ingredients to make a hearty, healthy meal from scratch – enough to feed up to four for one meal.

With recipes written by local chef and educator Cris Cohen of Feasted, the bags will contain cards with instructions to create simple, comforting vegetarian dishes including lentil & vegetable cottage pie and broccoli & cauliflower macaroni cheese. Every Tuesday in December and on Tuesday 5 January, there will be 40 bags available on a first come, first served basis from Sanctuary Ale House between 15:00-17:00, but a delivery service is on offer for over 60s who are unable to leave the house.

Teatime Tuesday follows on from Amanda and Gemma’s main autumn project. Through ‘Fallen from the Tree’ they collect unwanted or excess fruit each year from private gardens, allotments and public spaces to be redistributed for free. They ask fruit donors across Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme to join them in combating fruit waste, and have been creating a database of gardens, orchards, public and private spaces with surplus or unwanted fruit that can be donated.

This year Gemma and Amanda have done most of the collection runs themselves, as coordinating volunteers has been complicated during the coronavirus pandemic, but the pair are hopeful that next year they will be able to reach more fruit trees and give out more fruit. In spite of the pandemic, they received donations of all sorts of fruit from apples and pears to plums, damsons and sloes – even some walnuts. The produce was given out for free at community stalls and at the first Newcastle-under-Lyme Artisan Market on 18 November. One donors’ apples went to local charitable association Helping Angels, who made a slow cooker apple crumble.

And Collective Skills Project not only connects the community through food. During the first lockdown, Amanda and Gemma coordinated a Community Clay project, delivering 300 packs of clay to households in Hartshill and encouraging people to make decorations that were then hung along the main road to create a pop-up outdoor gallery that all residents could enjoy.

You can follow the Collective Skills Project on Facebook or Instagram to stay up-to-date and find out how you could get involved.

Collective Skills Project