Case Study 4
Community Food Initiative North East
Type of Organisation:
Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire
Nr. of Employees:
Nr. of Volunteers:
Target Beneficiaries: Disadvantaged and in-need
Multiple, including PCF
Community Food Initiatives North East ( CFINE) is a charity and social enterprise tackling issues such as poverty, social inclusion and employability. As its core operation, CFINE offers a range of food related services to people in crisis, located in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, including:
- Food bank;
- Operator of Fareshare Grampian which distributes food which would otherwise go to waste;
- Operator of a network of dozens of community food outlets that distribute high quality produce at affordable prices in local areas; and
- Community Training Kitchen which offers cooking lessons.
CFINE supplies free food primarily through its own food bank and through distribution of the free FareShare produce to c170 partner organisations in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire who in turn make the produce available to people in need. However, a range of additional services focus on providing a holistic service which goes beyond the basic needs of hunger and poverty to address the root causes of these issues so that the lives of service users can be improved sustainably (i.e. for the long term).
Once beneficiaries are in contact with CFINE, staff seek to engage with them further to assess their wider needs and to determine what type of support they might benefit from (finance, health, housing, employability, social inclusion). CFINE leads on the PCF funded AHEAD+ project, in partnership with Grampian Housing Association, North East Scotland Credit Union and Pathways (an employability charity).
Key Elements of Co-Production
The way in which CFINE (and the AHEAD+ project) engages with the community members and partner organisations exhibits a high level of ‘co-production’ and engagement in numerous ways.
At strategic level, the AHEAD+ project brings together a number of partners, not only to offer referral and signposting services, but also to co-design new services and become aware of additional development opportunities. The engagement with the partners further delivers joined-up services through co-location, and offering CFINE’s previous service users volunteer positions in their respective organisations. There is some representation of partners on each other’s Boards, with Grampian Housing Association on the CFINE Board.
At service user level, AHEAD+ has a particular interest in offering a person-focused service. This ensures that food bank customers are not only served with food, but encouraged to further engage with CFINE, leading to developing a closer relationship and trust between CFINE and the service user. This enables other support needs to be identified and addressed.
Social inclusion, health and employability are therefore important aspects covered by the person-focused approach. Encouraging service users to progress to becoming a volunteer at CFINE or with one of their partner organisations is an important element of this approach.
The volunteers, primarily working in the food bank, then also engage directly with new service users. This has a number of particular advantages: for the volunteer to gain confidence and skills in communicating, customer care, mentoring and being a role model; and for the new service user: to relate more easily to the service ‘speaking the same language’, to feel inspired by the role model; and feel understood.
Description of PCF Funded Project Activities
The key aim of the partnership is to deliver a holistic service to low income, disadvantaged, excluded and vulnerable people in the North East of Scotland.
Although most of the partners had existing relationships before, collaborating in the AHEAD+ project has deepened the relationships for all partners, particularly it has improved the embeddedness of a range of services within CFINE (i.e. co-location). The creation of a dedicated officer-based at CFINE was crucial to help overcome barriers for service users.
With the ongoing implementation and administration of welfare reform, the demand for food and other personal and household items has increased considerably, and CFINE has increased its range of products and operations accordingly. The logistics of the food bank are sophisticated, including negotiations with supermarkets, food manufacturers (safety certificates for products over the sell-by date), warehousing and stock control, distribution logistics and route planning, to portioning food parcels and personal allocations to people in need.
In light of the increasing demand, the number of volunteers at CFINE has increased to 230, requiring professional management and co-ordination. The sophistication of the CFINE operation also means that there is a wide range of different volunteer posts available which provides opportunities for service users to become increasingly more involved in volunteering themselves.
become a Community Hub with lots of small pilot projects."
A member of staff
B was drug dependent, but prior to that had a good job, a wife and family and lost it all through drug use. He came to CFINE dirty and dishevelled, having come off drugs but still struggling in every sense, with no money and a constant struggle to ‘stay clean’.
He came to get emergency food and the staff member suggested that he should return because he was in a bad way. B returned for more produce and in discussion with the staff member, she suggested he come in as a volunteer to give him a purpose, a reason to get up and stay ‘clean’. He is now office-based within CFINE and volunteers 18 hours a week of his time, helping with the food bank and data input around food bank usage. This is a valuable contribution to CFINE’s operation.
B’s confidence has grown since his involvement with CFINE – he always shows up when scheduled and feels confident in each of the tasks he undertakes. B is now clean and tidy, looks and feels healthier, has a sense of purpose and is looking forward to a brighter future including securing employment – something that a few months ago was simply not tangible. He has also completed an ‘Environmental Awareness and Healthy Eating’ course.
PCF funding was essential for a number of co-location actions from partners providing the capacity to place staff within CFINE. Most of these positions are now fully embedded within the service. PCF has created a holistic delivery team to address the multiple needs of service users.
The food bank has acted as an effective ‘hook’ for the engagement process drawing people in and building their confidence to access a wide network of advice and support. This was substantially aided by the co-location of a range of relevant support services, such as the Financial Capability Officers.
The holistic delivery of AHEAD+ helped to engage vulnerable people with multiple complex needs, responding to their needs promptly and in-house. Crucial to the success of the initiative was that PCF created additional capacity to attend to the many new service users in a personal manner, allocating sufficient time to gain their trust and to help them gain life skills and confidence. The often chaotic lifestyles of people in crisis require CFINE to be flexible, available, personal and welcoming offering a safe place for people in need. Improvements in their wellbeing and personal skills development have a direct impact on their future employment chances.
PCF supported the following activities in 2015/16:
- Over 3,000 emergency food parcels handed out per month via CFINE’s food bank and partners’ services;
- At least 25 tonnes of FareShare produce distributed monthly;
- 125 instances of financial advice offered at the food bank;
- 252 referrals received for financial capability support;
- 42 adults with learning difficulties on work placements;
- 16 new community food outlets opened; and
- 331 new volunteers recruited.
" Here they have time for you, they don’t judge you.
become my family."
Study Teams’ Observations
This organisation successfully delivers a range of essential services and supports local people to access opportunities. Service users feel a great friendship with CFINE, they feel that this is a safe place for them to be.
There are elements of co-production with service users becoming volunteers and some become employed staff members. There is a strong element of community consultation and a person-focused approach is applied. A number of new intitaives have been established by CFINE with volunteers focusing on food in the community topics (training kitchen, mobile community cafe).
" Once service users become volunteers, there is a huge
change in them, they start to shine!"
A member of staff
Email: Hannah Davidson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House