Veg box donation scheme in Potton gets almost £10k of National Lottery cash to help people in need

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The group provides 30 to 40 veg boxes a week to households in north east Beds

A charity that provides fruit and veg to people in food poverty is celebrating after being awarded almost £10,000 in National Lottery funding.

The Veg Box Donation Scheme (VBDS), based in Potton, has been running since 2020 and is staffed by 16 volunteers. It was founded by Sharon Mey, a keen organic, no-dig vegetable gardener and proponent of healthy eating, after she realised that the standard foodbank parcels, though an essential provision for those in food poverty, lacked fresh, healthy vegetables and fruit.

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The group now provide between 30 to 40 veg boxes a week to households in north east Bedfordshire, and the numbers are growing.

VBDS Veg Box packing dayVBDS Veg Box packing day
VBDS Veg Box packing day

Volunteers get together on a Friday morning to sort the donations from local growers, businesses and supermarkets, and the produce purchased with grant funding, and then pack the veg boxes according to the size of the household. The veg boxes are then delivered free of charge to the households who have been referred to VBDS by food banks, schools, charities, and agencies.

The new £9,950 cash from the National Lottery Community Fund, which distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes and is the largest community funder in the UK, will provide much-needed funding to purchase produce to top up the boxes, reimburse travel costs for volunteers collecting donations and delivering veg boxes, and cover essential running costs.

At the same time, the group will be able to press on with plans to find a storage facility, initially for equipment and fresh produce but eventually, with further funding, to acquire larger premises to enable the charity to diversify and expand.

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Sharon Mey, founder of VBDS, says: “We’re delighted that The National Lottery Community Fund has recognised our work in this way. Now, thanks to National Lottery players we will be able to continue to provide a healthy diet to parents, children and individuals in financial need. This is important because it improves the health of those for whom cheap, processed foods are the affordable way to stretch those pounds.Adam Johannes, a volunteer VBDS Trustee says: “The Veg Box Donation Scheme addresses surplus produce by collecting fresh, local, and seasonal goods from gardeners and communal sources. These items, including vegetables, herbs, fruit, flowers, and more, are assembled into "veg boxes" and distributed free of charge to community members in financial need through a referral-based system.

"VBDS not only combats food waste but also promotes healthy living, community support, and Christian charity, making it an integral part of the community, where gardening enthusiasts and those facing financial hardship come together to share nature's blessings”.The National Lottery Community Fund recently launched its new strategy, ‘It starts with community’, which will underpin its efforts to distribute at least £4 billion of National Lottery funding by 2030. As part of this, the funder has four key missions, which are to support communities to come together, be environmentally sustainable, help children and young people thrive and enable people to live healthier lives.

National Lottery players raise over £30 million a week for good causes across the UK. Thanks to them, last year The National Lottery Community Fund was able to distribute over half a billion pounds (£615.4 million) of life-changing funding to communities.