Local community organisation Black Butterfly (@blk_butterfly) have started to provide organic fruit and veg through their newest project Joyful Roots (@joyful.roots). Lillie Pierce spoke to founder Dawn Dublin to discuss how their project looks to bring about change and positivity while supporting Black and Ethnic communities.

Joyful Roots in action
PICTURE: Lillie Pierce

How did the idea of the organic veg boxes come to fruition? 
The idea for Joyful Roots came about because we wanted to grow and supply fresh, organic produce which is culturally relevant to communities of African/Caribbean heritage. We really want our food initiatives to show the care that we have for our cultural food heritage. Aspects like the ingredients, the recipes, and the smells all form a big part of cultural heritage. However, aside from a couple of shops locally, we weren’t seeing the types of fresh produce which is so often used in our cultural recipes and hardly any that was organic. 

When the pandemic hit, the issues of food insecurity and the lack of access to healthy, nutritional diets, especially for Black and Ethnic communities, were laid bare for the world to see. At that point it was even more important for us to enable our communities to access affordable fresh produce. The veg boxes are our way of sharing the love with our community, creating connections and kinship, and supporting families in need. Anyone can grow or cook, but not everyone can do it in a way which sparks joy

For now, we’re having to buy in a lot of the produce for our veg bags but we plan to grow our own, creating healing spaces around food, community and land. Joyful Roots is a ‘growing’ community and local farming is key to our aims of helping to support a resilient food system, so we’re really excited to set up our urban farm along with working with partners to co-develop growing initiatives.

Can anyone pick up a box and what is the cost?
Our priority is to provide culturally relevant produce to Black and Ethnic communities, however, since we started this project, we’ve been supplying to anyone who requests a box. Throughout March/April, collections (we offer limited deliveries) will be on Thursdays between 3-5pm at Sugarpie Honeybuns café (235 London Road). We’re really grateful to Lucy and Ray for allowing us the use of the cafe for our pop up. From May onwards we’ll be offering collections from designated locations around the town, with the possibility of deliveries by Hastings Cargo Bike Co.

Our boxes are £10 (regular) and £15 (large). However, we know times are tough and so we’re also offering a variety of payment options, such as sliding scale, trade-a-skill and pay-it-forward. 

The veg boxes are our way of sharing the love with our community, creating connections and kinship, and supporting families in need

Are you working with local suppliers? How do you know what you’ll be packing each week?
For the moment our local suppliers are preparing for the growing season, so we have to buy in our produce from around the country and some products from overseas. This means we’re dependent on supplies bought through UK wholesalers and sometimes our produce list changes dependent on availability (due to Brexit). When the time is right, we will be also buying from Abby and Thad at local Peapod Veg, along with Stonelynk Organics in Fairlight and other producers in Pevensey, Eastbourne and Kent. 

In future, we want to ensure we have access to hyper-local produce, so we’re starting an edible garden at our distribution hub and a rooftop farm to grow our own veg box produce. We certainly won’t be growing mangoes, green bananas and yams, but the climate down here means that in summer we can grow produce like fruit, peppers, chillies and callaloos as well as standard seasonal vegetables. 

Are you looking for volunteers? How can we engage? Where can we donate?
We’re always looking for volunteers! We’ll need help with our new rooftop farm project and with our edible garden space in St Leonards. Our new website will be live shortly, but until then you can email us at: [email protected] to connect or regarding donations. Alternatively, to sign up to a veg box e-mail us at [email protected]

See what HIP food editors made with their veg box here

Joyful Roots is one part of wider community initiative, Black Butterfly, who also run wellbeing and mental health therapy programmes. In the coming year, they will be expanding to offer creative arts projects, cultural education programmes, enterprise hubs, fitness clubs, roller-skating events, a new youth-led project and music programmes.
You can find them at blackbutterfly.org.uk, on Facebook
@blackbutterflyuk and Instagram @blk_butterfly

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