Welcome to our regular column where a local residents has their say about something that’s on their mind. This month, three volunteers, Marcella, Katy and Arthur from Pie ‘n Mash start a discussion about community and mutual aid.
It’s all about mutual trust. We responded to the COVID-19 lockdown by putting together free food parcels for people in the community, using the Field Community space on Queens road, next to the doctor’s surgery as our base. Over the weeks we gathered support from volunteers and community groups and we are now producing 69 food parcels per week, varying from one person to families of five. In addition, we are taking food parcels and hot meals to Deptford Square and Peckham Square every week and sharing them with anyone who wants to take them.
Mutual aid is really important to us as an idea and a practice. People helping each other based on trust, no one having to prove they are deserving or worthy, everyone being equal, recognising we have different skills and ideas to share. Mutual aid is an opportunity for everyone to ‘give’ and ‘receive’.
Right now there are eight of us who collect the food. This includes doing a 5am run to New Covent Gardento buy the fruit and veg for the food parcels every Wednesday. We then make up the parcels, do the cooking, deliver door to door, and we run our stalls in Deptford and Peckham. But its not just about distributing food, it’s about developing mutually trusting relationships with people, it’s about connecting. Food is a great connector; that’s our starting point but we actually do much more to support people in many different ways.
Most of us have paid work and fit our ‘pie ‘n mash’ work in and around our jobs. We’re really happy to work with different community groups in the area, charities and mutual aid groups, we share good practice, learn from each others’ experience and we help each other make connections with groups where they can get support or share their skills. Communicating with the community around us is important so we produce a newsletter. We want people to know what we’re doing and how they can get involved. We want them to know about our plans and aspirations for Pie ‘n Mash. Creating connections, staying connected, and sharing information is central to any community.
We have recently got our first grant in to help us do this work, to keep us afloat, not much money but it really has made a difference. And, importantly, it has given us a little bit of space to think about the future and how we might develop this project.