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Chief exec and senior advisor of Community Links Kevin Jenkins urges us to support traditional East End allotments.

PUBLISHED: 14:10 23 October 2013 | UPDATED: 14:10 23 October 2013

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The late summer, early autumn period is the traditional time when rural communities in particular celebrate and give thanks for the annual food harvest.

However, the days when food growing was the preserve of the countryside are fading fast with the advent of urban community gardening and growing schemes in cities and towns across the country.

Spurred on by a succession of high profile campaigns often backed by a celebrity chef or gardener, and funded by an impressive portfolio of funding opportunities, the development of community growing and gardening projects in towns and cities has been phenomenal, and Newham is no exception.

Newham has an impressive network of sites that have been developed around a strong core of traditional East End allotments.

Sadly the prospects for next year’s harvest are not good across the country, and it’s not due to our unpredictable weather.

There is a combination of less figurehead campaigns maintaining the profile, a diminishing portfolio of funding from companies keen to be seen ticking their corporate social responsibility box in respect of the environment (giving priority to ticking other boxes), local authority cutbacks and the ending of the Big Lottery Fund, Local Food funding stream in March 2014.

In parallel there remains significant areas of idle land that could produce healthy food and a much better environment for us all to enjoy.

In Newham, major landholders such as the council, the health authority, Thames Water, GLA etc have the potential to help keep the Newham growers going if they wish.

Though some projects have reached sustainability, many others have not, though they could if given some more time.

All the underpinning negative social indices that generated the initial growth (poor health, poor diet, etc) still prevail, especially in Newham, and still need to be addressed.

There is a real danger that all the good that has been achieved will be lost over the coming year.

We need an urgent joined- up rethink on the part of the government, national and local, major funders, community health providers and the corporate world.


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