• A movement of growing fruit and veg has spread across the country as lockdown’s have led people to fear food shortages across the UK.
  • Since the lockdown was announced last week people have been panic-buying and hoarding food – is there a solution to this problem?
  • Can people’s mental wellbeing, which has suffered due to unemployment, poor diets and lockdowns recover through home farming?

As Britain enters lockdown for the second time this year, it appears that many have still not learnt from the first that they need to be prepared. Once again, people are panicking, and the shelves of grocery stores and supermarkets are emptying at an alarming rate. While many have restructured the way in which they purchase and store necessities, others have seemingly not looked far enough ahead to effectively manage their resources during lockdown. Instead, people have resorted to panic-buying to quickly build up their reserves in case of potential shortages.

But What Is The Solution To This Problem?

There will almost inevitably be a group of individuals who rush to their local supermarket at the first mention of uncertainty and while those who partake in this practice can be lessened by spreading a message about its negative implications, to believe that this will cease is simply foolhardy.

While a miscellany of articles have been produced which articulate ‘why you don’t need to panic buy’, they have largely failed to mentioned an alternative for those who are fearful that our ‘food chain’ may buckle and break under the strain of the pandemic or another unforeseen event.

The proclamation that ‘everything is going to be alright’, may very well be true, however, it will remain difficult for many to believe such rhetoric after media outlets have battered them over the head with nothing but doom, gloom and despair over these last nine-months.

We should therefore look to an alternative solution, one which allows citizens to have the peace of mind that they will have enough to maintain their families standard of living, without the need for them to go out and hoard products as soon as the word ‘lockdown’ is mentioned.

We have reached a new epoch in which easy living, fast consumerism and a reliability upon established institutions is being questioned. People are no longer so sure that they will be able to pick up what they need, when they need it. No matter how stocked up the supermarkets truly are or the number of times the government ensures the British people that panic-buying is unnecessary, a lack of security has seemingly remained within the psyche of many.

This fear of shortages has led some to re-evaluate their level of independence and question where their food comes from, what they can do to become more self-sufficient, and how they might return to a simpler way of living.

As the age of plenty dwindles, people have looked to ‘prepping’ a variety of goods in case of a potential disaster. While the ‘prepper’ used to be viewed as a conspiratorial nutcase, eagerly awaiting the worlds end, today this stereotype can no longer hold true. Within cul-de-sacs up and down the country, people have begun to prepare for the inevitable lockdowns that will come and other potential worse-case scenarios.

People Are Growing More Than Ever Before:  

Throughout the UK, several local food growing initiatives have appeared or expanded during lockdown, amid concerns of supermarket shortages. These have often been set up to either sustain their local communities, provide support to vulnerable individuals, or simply offer a healthier alternative to shoppers.

In August, The Guardian would report on initiatives in Cambridge, Northumberland, Northamptonshire and London, in which food growers have come together to help their local communities.

To find out more about what is happening today with the growing of food stuffs in local communities, we sat down with Anne Hayden, founder of Your Planet Doctors, to discuss what she has been doing in Dorset to encourage people to prepare and grow their own food, help those in need, and establish more sustainable methods of production during and after the pandemic.

While many have looked at the current pandemic pessimistically, Anne would comment that she believes there is a ‘silver-lining’ to this situation:

Since Covid started, for the first time probably since the war, people have started to come together, work together, look after each other, and have begun to grow their own food. This wouldn’t have been remotely possible before the pandemic.

Anne Hayden

Your Planet Doctors, through the use of their website, Facebook, and other forms of social media, are attempting to coordinate as many individuals within their local community to grow fruit and veg, so that they can not only sustain themselves but help their neighbours and those in need.

We are creating a grower’s map of Dorset, so that we can plot on all the roads where people are (with proper data-protection) and what people are growing. We ask people a load of questions about what they are growing and what they like to grow: do they grow any fruit trees, would they be prepared to start up a growers group, would they like to join a growers group, etc. We take that information and then with any luck this will spur people on even more; they will look at the map and they will see that there are lots of people in their street that are growing. Now, this takes a great deal of time and it isn’t a simple fix, however, slowly, slowly, it can be done. Once we have Dorset on board, we can get other areas to join this movement.

Anne Hayden

However, Anne is not simply focusing on the grown-ups in her campaign to get her local community producing their own food, but the younger generation as well. So far, she has managed to get two schools (Christ Church Infant School and Verwood Hillside School) to start teaching children how to grow and cook their own food in an attempt to get them moving in the right direction.

They are creating their own ecologically friendly gardens with the children so that they learn to grow, and we will hopefully teach them how to cook the recipes that they like and are easy. If their parents told them to do that, they would turn their noses up, but if it is done at school with all the other kids, they take to it more. Suddenly, they are cooking lasagnes and shepherds’ pies which are really tasty. There is great potential here to improve people’s wellbeing, no matter how rotten they feel now, they can feel better.

Anne Hayden

We would ask Anne how why she believed that a campaign to change people’s eating habits might be possible, particularly in light of previous attempts such as Jamie Oliver’s largely failed campaign to make school meals healthier back in 2004.  

It’s not simply, like Jamie Oliver did, going to the schools and really trying to encourage them, this is a whole movement. We’re trying to change habits because I know you can change habits. We’re trying to say to people that this food that your buying might not always be available.  

Anne Hayden

However, both Anne and her team at Your Planet Doctors have understood that this change isn’t going to come quickly. Instead, they have decided to take a more targeted approach to growing their sphere of influence by focusing on one community at a time. Anne’s organisation has therefore focused a large amount of their efforts into the town of Boscombe, which has often suffered from a lack of funding and has traditionally held a populous with lesser means.

In the disadvantaged areas of Boscombe many people live in accommodation, especially the men, in which each chap has got their own room, the kitchen is absolutely horrible, if they buy their own food and they put it in the fridge someone often nicks it, and they end up, of course, going down to the local café and eating sausage and chips. Of course, this means they get larger in themselves; their self-esteem goes down and so it goes on – it’s a vicious cycle.

Anne Hayden

By working with organisations such as The Grounded Community, Anne hopes to inspire those in Boscombe to take up better eating habits, grow organic foods, and establish a greater sense of kinship amongst local inhabitants to sustain those in need over the coming difficult winter months.

If we work together and we can secure enough extra land in your areas, we can not only produce enough to feed ourselves and our neighbours, but we may even have enough to sell, which could be so helpful for those who find themselves unemployed.

Anne Hayden
The Grounded Community, Bournemouth, 2015.

Since, Boscombe has become one of the ‘identified communities’ for the Aspire programme, which will run until February 2023, it will receive part of the projects 7 million euro budget that will aim to ‘support people who are unemployed to reach a healthy weight and gain employment.’

The project will provide a holistic approach to lowering obesity and unemployment rates in identified communities where these two issues are common and definitively linked. A recent Gallup poll shows that the longer a person is unemployed, the higher the rates of obesity, with rates reaching up to 32.7% after a year or more of unemployment.

The aim of this project will be to improve the relationship that our participants have with their food, with access to local health produce and consequent weight loss, and to provide them with the skills and support needed to successfully gain employment.

The Aspire Programme

Anne hopes that if they can really make a difference to those suffering in Boscombe, that this model can be copied by others across the UK to make a serious difference to people’s physical and mental wellbeing.


If you are growing food within your local community, have found innovative ways to prep for coming lockdowns, or are helping your local community out by any other means, then please contact us at newsdesk@mouthingoffmagazine.com to tell us all about your experience.