LOCAL groups that improve people’s wellbeing, reduce isolation, helps families eat nutritiously or aim to provide a warm safe space this winter are being reminded that grants are still available from Devon County Council (DCC).

This month marks the first birthday of the Growing Communities Fund and since its launch it has been supporting local communities through the cost-of-living crisis.

So far more than £530,000 has been awarded to 300 different local projects, many of which are helping communities cope with the sharp increase in food prices and bills.

The GCF was initially set up in 2022 to support proactive, effective, measurable and sustainable actions to enable individuals and communities to build self-reliance and improve mental health and wellbeing.

Since then, it has developed into one of DCC’s responses to the fastest rise in the cost of living for 40 years.

According to the Office of National Statistics, the price of consumer goods and services rose at the fastest rate in four decades in the year to October 2022.

The cost of food increased by 14.6 per cent in the year to last September reaching its highest level since 1980 and continues to rise.

The GCF aims to help local groups and organisations to become more resilient and help those in their communities’ cope with these financial pressures.

Groups which are encouraged to apply include those that bring communities together for meaningful activities and social interaction, offer local people a warm safe haven during winter or alleviate food poverty by producing or distributing surplus food and essentials or who offer communities the means to cook nutritious meals on a budget.

But regardless of the activity every group that has received or been pledged funding has one thing in common – a willingness to build self-reliance and resilience within a community.

For instance, LOVE Food CIC received a grant to help produce a recipe booklet focussing on healthy, cheap, sustainable wholefood plant-based recipes which could then be given to participants of its free cookery courses and other local community groups.

In its application it said: “We want to show local people that they can eat delicious food, which is also good for the planet, and affordable and easy to make.”

Nourish, based in Axminster used its funding to enable it to offer a “warm space” this winter for members of the community who are affected by the fuel crisis. 

A spokesperson from Nourish said: “We will provide tea and coffee, soups, cakes and entertainment.  This will allow the most vulnerable in our community a warm and safe place to come and meet others, which will also help to combat loneliness and isolation.”

The Pelican Project, based in Exeter, supports learning-disabled adults as they transition from school to adult life and from child to adult services.

Children with Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans has increased to 3.7 per cent of the population, while the pandemic has reduced access to the networks that help alleviate isolation.

Of its application the Pelican Project said: “Our programme aims to improve the wellbeing of our members and those who support them. Our greatest challenge is meeting the growing demand in the learning-disabled community for activity that reduces isolation, encourages personal development, improves wellbeing and provides a sense of belonging, both to The Pelican Project and the wider community.

“Funding will support our plans to increase capacity by 20 per cent over the next academic year.”

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Public Health, Communities and Equality, said: “People right across the county are feeling the effect of consistently high food prices and higher energy costs.

“We have seen how the Growing Communities Fund can provide vital support to local communities that make a genuine difference. I’m pleased to be able to announce more funding and we would particularly welcome applications for projects that support communities through the financial crisis, helping them to become more resilient, such as projects that help ensure communities are well nourished and kept warm.”

For more information, please contact: [email protected]  or telephone on 01392 383379.