Annual Report and Financial Statement

TRUSTEES ANNUAL REPORT to end March 2020

The financial statements have been prepared in accordance with the accounting policies set out in note 1 to the financial statements and comply with the charity’s constitution , the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005, the Charities Accounts (Scotland) Regulations 2006 (as amended) and “Accounting and Reporting by Charities: Statement of Recommended Practice applicable to charities preparing their accounts in accordance with the Financial Reporting Standard applicable in the UK and Republic of Ireland (FRS 102)” (as amended for accounting periods commencing from 1 January 2016) .

Objectives and activities

The charity’s objects are to promote the advancement of education by training people to produce food in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.  In addition, our activities can reasonably be expected to also promote the relief of poverty, specifically food poverty, through the development of skills, including but not restricted to, food growing, preservation and cooking.  Environmental protection and improvement by, for example, teaching the benefits of wildlife to food production and by creating healthy soil ecosystems.  The charity promotes the use of land for recreational purposes by, for example, the creation of community gardens and other growing spaces.

The trustees have paid due regard to guidance issued by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator in deciding what activities the charity should undertake.

Achievements and Performance

During this financial period the charity employed a Chief Officer, a role split between two people with responsibility for different aspects of the operation and governance.  A volunteer co-ordinator is in place for the Hawick Community Garden and a Project Co-ordinator for the Berwickshire Community Food Gardens was appointed in March 2020.  These posts are funded by National Lottery Community Fund and The Robertson Trust.

Community Growing

Over the past year, we identified five new community garden projects and have started to develop three of those gardens.  At the beginning of the year we began working on the Eyemouth Community Garden and towards the end of the period work started on a second garden in Duns, a project supported by Berwickshire Housing Association.  We have also started working with Reston Village Hall and Reston Primary School to develop the land next to the school.  In addition, we have identified and are supporting the re-establishment of a Community Garden at Coldingham and are working with Cockburnspath community on their land asset transfer with the goal of creating a community garden on the outskirts of the village.

The Community Food Gardens established at Ayton and Hawick in previous years continue to flourish.  In the Community Garden at Hawick we offer supported volunteering for those with learning disabilities.  John Spiteri, who is the Local Area Coordinator with Scottish Borders Council Learning Disability Service says, ‘As a professional working with the Learning Disability Service, I am acutely aware of the shortage of vocational opportunities in this geographically isolated and economically deprived area.  Abundant Borders has a proven record in providing opportunities for vulnerable and socially isolated individuals to become involved in the making of a garden, making friendships, learning skills and increasing physical fitness.  For some individuals this is sufficient to significantly improve their quality of life, for others it is a stepping-stone to involvement in other projects, leading to preparation for open employment.’

We recruited 17 community food garden volunteers and offered supported volunteering twice-weekly from the Hawick Garden, weekly from the Eyemouth Garden and monthly from the Ayton Garden.  In addition, there are volunteer-led sessions twice-weekly from the Ayton Garden.  It is worth noting that the 17 community food garden volunteers are supplemented by many more people who work in the gardens less frequently or who visit the gardens when they feel lonely or isolated.

Surplus food from all three gardens has been donated directly to Hawick Food Bank, Eyemouth Community Fridge, Eyemouth Tea Dance, Coldstream Social Lunch, Eyemouth School Holiday Lunch Clubs, LINKS Eyemouth (a project supporting young families) and activities supported by Eyemouth Good Food Partnership.  Produce has also been taken by the volunteers who themselves are experiencing food insecurity.  We expect donations to increase as the gardens mature and become more productive.  We have also created Herb and Salad beds in Eyemouth so that people can help themselves to produce without having to present at any organised event.

We ran two courses in sustainable growing, with 18 participants having received, or due to receive, certificates.  A third course based at the Hawick Garden, did not take place due to the illness and subsequent departure of the Volunteer Co-ordinator.   A new Volunteer Coordinator came into post 1 March 2020 and we expect to restart the training programme later this year.

When asked “What did you learn?” participants all responded positively with comments including, “Loads! From being a complete novice, I now feel more confident to try to grow some of my own food” and “This training has given me confidence to have a go at home and not to worry about doing it right or wrong.”

Since we found from the first course that the book-learning part of the course did not suit all participants, we have introduced shorter workshops and have also introduced a certificated qualification based entirely on practical learning. This course will be available from Spring 2020.

In Eyemouth, working with a local food manufacturing business, we built raised beds in the town so that people could take what herbs and salads they needed.  Now people have access to fresh herbs and salads without having to buy plastic wrapped herbs from the supermarket or needing to buy more of an item than they really needed.

Cooking Skills

We ran three, six- week courses during the year, training 26 people in total.  During this period Abundant Borders became a Training and Certification Centre for The Royal Environmental Health Institute for Scotland (REHIS).  Participants who complete the healthy cooking course gain a REHIS qualification in Elementary Cooking Skills.  The feedback to the courses has been positive.  When asked what they learned and what they enjoyed the responses included, “Eating together and realising how easy it is to cook”, Learning to cook things I hadn’t made before and being in good company while doing it”, and “This is a really good course, I am definitely more confident.”

Over the year we recruited and supported eight Good Food Volunteers.  These volunteers now support the delivery of the Healthy Cooking Course, Food Workshops and Social Lunches.  Most volunteers have completed the healthy cooking course and received their cooking skills certificate. At the end of the course the opportunity to continue to volunteer was invaluable to these individuals, people who had previously found social interaction difficult and had few opportunities to connect with their local community.

In addition, we have run a range of good food activities to bring people together through food.  We run a social lunch in Coldstream, attended by 20-30 mainly elderly and isolated people, weekly between October and April then monthly throughout the summer.  We helped set up a monthly social lunch group in Gavinton, attended by 15-20 residents, which is run entirely by volunteers with support from Abundant Borders.  We run bi-weekly creative cooking workshops in Eyemouth where food destined for landfill is turned into healthy meals.  We ran school holiday lunch clubs in Eyemouth during the 2019 Easter and summer holidays where families could come together to share food cooked by Abundant Borders’ volunteers working in partnership with local businesses and food producers.  We also offered workshops, based from the community food gardens or using local village halls, in many aspects of food growing, preserving and sharing.  These included, no-dig gardening, growing perennial salads, herb growing, food preservation, local food and climate challenge, foraging and making rosehip syrup and making Christmas chutneys.

Through involvement with the cooking courses, social lunches and workshops people have more control over their eating and diet.  Everyone comes to our programmes with different needs and each takes something different away.  These are a few examples from the cooking courses.

One person who came to the course didn’t engage with the food preparation at first, indeed didn’t want to touch vegetables or use a knife.  By the end of the course she was peeling and chopping vegetables and had helped to make an apple crumble from scratch at home.

Another had severe visual impairment and having attended the course, now realises that she can help her support worker prepare meals and enjoys cooking at home, with help.  She also feels she has much more control over what she eats as she is more involved with the preparation of meals and the choice of ingredients.

One young man, when he arrived at a healthy cooking course was withdrawn and wanted his mother to stay with him.  Once engaged in conversation he opened up and by the end of the first session he was talking to other participants and helping them complete their tasks.  He now arrives early for the sessions, without the support from his mother, and wants to continue to volunteer with other social food activities.

Another, who has limited social opportunities said that the cooking course has been a chance to feel part of a community again.  He feels he has learned new skills and looks forward to connecting each week with the new friends he has made.

At the start of each cooking course we ask participants to complete a simple food diary and to tell the group what they ate the previous day.  One young man said that he had not eaten through the day, drinking many cups of coffee, and his only “proper” meal being a fish and chips ready meal which he heated up in the microwave.  Mid-way through the course he asked if we could make fresh fruit salad together as a group, and he now makes fruit pies and crumbles as a volunteer at his local Men’s Shed.  He has also referred friends to our courses which is probably the best testimonial.

Tacking Social Isolation

The Scottish Borders is a rural area with many small, isolated villages with poor transport links. Abundant Borders brings activities to local communities, using village halls and community centres for social food initiatives and cooking courses and creating accessible community gardens.

Over the year we have had many examples of people who have flourished by being able to participate in ways that suit their abilities and interests:

  • A. lives a couple of miles outside her nearest small village and suffers from the damage to her mental health caused by social isolation. She came to a basic cooking skills course and found a love of cooking in a social setting and now volunteers in helping to deliver that course and other social food activities
  • B. has periods of depression and self-harm. He had held responsible positions in the past and his organisational skills make him a vital member of the social lunch team, taking orders from guests and delivering them to the kitchen
  • C. suffers from social isolation and feelings of inadequacy but, at heart, is a very sociable person. She now meets people as they come to social lunch, chats to people and makes everyone welcome
  • In the community gardens we have young men who are physically strong and able but who don’t have the ability to organise their own work. By having supported volunteering, they are able to work in the gardens, which they love, and in particular undertaking the jobs that require physical strength, like helping to put up a polytunnel.  The boost to confidence by being key members of a team rather than being given odd jobs to do has been tremendous.

We work closely with partners across the region, including Juliana Amaral, SBC Local Area Co-ordinator for Older Adults, who told us:

“The partnership work with Abundant Borders has been one of the strongest for the Local Area Co-ordination team in terms of building community capacity, project sustainability and offering an holistic approach when it comes to inclusion, social opportunities and environmental impact.  From growing to cooking and sharing food, the initiative is unique as it brings together people of all ages and abilities to contribute and take part in community life, thus reducing social isolation, raising environmental awareness and improving wellbeing.”  Juliana gave two specific examples. “Mrs B who is 92 years old, is well known to the local GP practice due to her loneliness and isolation. However, in a meeting, the local GPs reported that Mrs B completely ‘disappears’ from her appointments during the months when the lunch club is available.  Recently, they have also been supporting one of our older service users, who has been diagnosed with Dementia to volunteer at the lunch club.  This has completely transformed the volunteer’s life in terms of self-confidence, and it has provided respite time for her husband, her main carer.”

Dianne Murray, Local Area Coordinator for Adult Mental Health says, “Abundant Borders has been a very local opportunity for those experiencing mental health conditions to be involved in activities and gain skills – both of which contribute significantly to emotional and mental wellbeing.  We have been able to signpost clients to AB directly due to the quality of the staff and volunteers together with their experience, understanding of, and empathy for those living with mental health issues and learning disability.  It is rare to find sustainable opportunities locally which offer such a range of support from transport to appropriate equipment and clothing to quality training which also connects people to the land, food and social aspects of wellbeing.”

Looking Ahead

For 2020 we are introducing a sustainable growing course based entirely on outdoor learning.  The course will be based on the Grow and Learn programme managed by the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society and certificated by them.

This is a person-centred programme which rewards individual progress and achievement.  Each learner undertakes a range of core tasks, from seed sowing to planting and then chooses which additional activities they want to undertake as well as setting themselves personal goals.  It will allow learners that are unable to participate in the current course to be fully involved in the community gardens, allow existing volunteers to continue their learning journey and promote regular volunteering and commitment to community gardening for those who are currently on the margins of the projects.

Abundant Borders is now a registered REHIS Training Centre for Basic Cooking.  For those who have achieved the Elementary Cooking Skills award, we are introducing the opportunity to complete the next stage, the REHIS Food Hygiene qualification.  This will give participants the opportunity to move into employment in food retailing and/or allow them to become more active volunteers in our social food activities, for example by helping at the social lunches and workshops.  We are introducing a supported e-learning programme so that qualifications can be completed on-line.  The cost of the further training is supported by Seedcorn Funding from Scottish Borders Social Enterprise Chamber

We have seen that, as part of the climate challenge emergency as well as a way of addressing poverty, we should stop unsold food from supermarkets from being sent to landfill.  Northern Soul Kitchen, a local social enterprise, and Eyemouth Community Fridge receive food that is still fit for human consumption, but which cannot be sold through supermarkets.  Working with local people we realised that many did not know what to do with the food available.  We have recently created a pilot project, Waste Not Eyemouth, where a group of up to 16 people take a box of donated fresh fruit and vegetables and, using these and basic larder items, create a range of healthy dishes to be shared and taken home to families.  This has proven to be a huge success and a creative way of including families who are experiencing food insecurity but who felt embarrassed to take food from the community fridge as they did not want people to know that they were in need.  We will look to turn this pilot into a permanent part of our food activity programme.

We will be increasing the social food activities which will provide further volunteering opportunities for people who have completed cooking courses and ensure that they continued to be supported.  It will also ease social isolation of those who meet and enjoy the social meals. We will be working with partners to deliver this programme.

Financial review

 Funding

This reporting period represents year 1 of a three year funding package from The National Lottery Community Fund and The Robertson Trust.  The organisation has successfully delivered Year One outcomes to these main funders and has received funding for Year Two.  Since this is the case, and notwithstanding the risk review, the charity is well funded for its current level of operations, with funding to deliver additional projects already secured.

Reserves

It is the policy of the charity that unrestricted funds, i.e. monies which have not been designated for a specific use, should be maintained at a level equivalent to three months expenditure.  The trustees consider that reserves at this level will ensure that, in the event of a significant drop in funding, they will be able to continue the charity’s current activities while consideration is given to ways in which additional funds may be raised.  At the year end, the charity did not reach this target for unrestricted funds and will work to increase these to reach an appropriate level.

Risk review

The trustees have assessed the major risks to which the charity is exposed and are satisfied that systems are in place to mitigate exposure to the major risks.

Plans for future periods

The charity intends to continue its charitable activities in order to achieve its aims and objectives.

Public benefit

In considering the operations, achievements, performance and finances of the charity, the trustees are satisfied that public benefit has been provided in accordance with the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 and guidance provided by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

Structure, governance and management

The charity is a SCIO, number SC049008.

The trustees who served during the period and up to the date of signature of the financial statements were:

Mr M Benson

Ms R McArthur

Mr S Straughan

Ms J Haines

Ms T Bearhope

Suitably qualified trustees are recruited from the local network of organisations, agencies and third sector groups to meet the skills and experience needs of the board, with the support of the local TSI. New trustees are approved by members at the next available meeting.

New trustees are briefed on their obligations under charity law and provided with a copy of the constitution, strategic plan and financial statements as part of an induction process.

The Trustees report was approved by the Board of Trustees.


Accounts to end March 2020 can be viewed here

Accounts to end January 2019 can be viewed here.

Please note: Accounts were complied for the period April 2018 to January 2019. At this point Abundant Borders SCO46962 converted to SCIO SCO49008

Accounts to end March 2018 can be viewed here.

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