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Food parcels prove lifeline for Cynon Valley community during lockdown

A social enterprise improving health and wellbeing in the Cynon Valley is providing a lifeline to residents unable to go shopping during the Coronavirus crisis.

Cynon Valley Organic Adventures, based in Abercynon, has launched a daily food distribution service to help vulnerable members of the community. Volunteers are delivering up to 120 food parcels each week – including organic salad grown at the organisation’s riverside premises – and have pledged to do so for as long as the lockdown continues.

Cynon Valley Organic Adventures, established in 2018, gives local people and groups an outdoor space to recharge, grow food and meet new friends through a number of sustainable wellbeing and learning initiatives. Led by director Janis Werrett, the enterprise is based at a five-acre plot, which includes a large pond, orchard, willow and hazel coppice and woodland. A log cabin for community groups and a garden cafe are also being planned.

Janis saw the need to distribute food parcels as soon as Coronavirus began to affect the community, recruiting a number of volunteers to help make up the packages as well as four delivery drivers. She said: “The need is huge and we’re seeing all circumstances. Families can’t feed their children and many elderly people are slipping through the gaps between council and social services.

“We have had a grant of £2,000 from Community Foundation Wales, £250 from Interlink and we’re hoping to get more this month too, as well as collecting food donations. We are also growing salad and vegetables in our polytunnels. We will continue to distribute food until the need is gone – probably for six to eight weeks, although this could change.”

A makeshift distribution centre for the food has been set up at a Cynon Valley hair salon, after the owner had to adhere to lockdown closures but wanted to do something to help others. Janis added: “The community is really uniting and it’s been emotional to see. We’ve no shortage of volunteers and even older people are trying to give me beans from their garden.”

Group sessions and activities at Cynon Valley Organic Adventures are on hold for the time being, but two volunteers are attending the site daily, observing social distancing. They have recently created a butterfly garden and installed a new toilet, as well as tending the polytunnels. And the future is looking bright for the community initiative, with hopes to buy the site from the current landlord and a number of online courses set to launch.

“We will survive Coronavirus; in fact, it has actually brought us closer to a much wider community,” said Janis. “Our plan was always to be sustainable and buy the site, and we hope this will happen within the next few months. The community is communicating with an open heart and people can’t wait to visit so in the long run, so we are determined to turn such a bad situation into something positive.”

In addition to the food parcels, a helpline is also open on Mondays and Fridays between 9am and midday to support anyone in need of a chat or advice. The number is 01685 877261.

“People break down in tears with gratitude when we deliver,” added Janis. “We are just glad to help and extremely grateful to the organisations and people who have donated so generously.”

Cynon Valley Organic Adventures works in partnership with GP surgeries in the Cynon Valley cluster, with South Cynon GP community wellbeing coordinator Julie Lomas referring patients in need of support, friendship and wellbeing activities. To find out more, visit the Cynon Valley Organic Adventures website or follow the enterprise on Facebook.