Co-op brum newsletter 2

The word count from last weeks edition is 1,100 If people want start discsussing content here that would be great.

This post is a wiki please feel free to add to it. Make comments below if you have suggestions / edits excetera


A news bulletin for extraordinary times. Submissions to info@cooperationbirmingham.org.uk 15/05/20

Eating well - Shamima Akhtar
The meals have been really helpful whilst i’ve been isolating alone. I started to receive the government parcel a few weeks ago, but it contains lots of food that I can’t eat and there’s no way of amending what’s in the deliveries. With the Solidarity Kitchen meals I know i’ll have a nutritious meal in the evening that I can actually eat, which removes the stress of having to decide on what to eat and gives me something to look forward to in the evenings.

I first heard about the meals on my social media from friends that worked at the Warehouse Cafe. It’s been really nice to feel supported during this pandemic, especially because the meals do not require you to share lots of personal information to access them, which I had to do in order to receive help from the government. This is the type of unquestioned support ‘vulnerable’ people like me need, rather than charity-based support that puts pity at its centre.

Bea Hughes on taking part in shifts at the kitchen
Being part of the Solidarity Kitchen is a joy and a privilege. I have been working with the project as both a kitchen participant and delivering meals to doorsteps approximately once or twice a week since the beginning of lockdown. It is essential work being done in the face of Governmental negligence and absence of support. For me, it is a method of necessary engagement with the wider community during the uncertainty of this pandemic. In the kitchen, I am often delegated tasks such as counting skyscrapers of takeaway boxes, or cleaning a majestically large cooking pot the size of a cruise ship (in which I often imagined myself rowing down the canals of Birmingham using the paddle). I’ve made vats of dressing with balsamic vinegar and low sugar date syrup. Not to mention tossing ginormous cauldrons of salad.

The app used to deliver the meals is efficient and user-friendly and the routes are planned so your last stop is the one closest to your house. I have been humbled and moved by the gratitude and the humour of those people I have met from afar at their doors. The strict PPE and hygiene practices within the project made my anxiety around contagion easier. I have relished meeting new like-minded people from around the city and becoming familiar with new and uncharted areas. The Solidarity Kitchen team have without fail been supportive, friendly and kind. This extends to everyone I have encountered working with the project. Their stamina and determination is an outstanding example of the kind of mutual solidarity we must aim for.

Participants NOT volunteers
For some time Cooperation Birmingham solidarity kitchen has slipped into the common usage of the term ‘volunteer’ to describe people who are working towards the project. This is often used by charities and NGOs, the ‘voluntary sector’, if you will, to describe all the people who put in work for their cause. This is a distinction made between the people at the top, the people who get paid and even profit from the cause and the people who put in hours of labour to make things happen because they see the value in it. Volunteers often do not have a real say or stake in what happens in the organisation they work for and tend to be instrumentalised.

In Cooperation Birmingham this is not something we hope to replicate. We are not a charity or an NGO and we do not work for anyone but the people involved, whether that be people working in the kitchen, people receiving meals, people driving, people working hard on this very newsletter! Anyone can contribute ideas to the project and has the power to enact them with the work and agreement of other participants. We are all participants and we can all participate!

The crisis didn’t start with Covid
Cooperation Kentish Town was set up in 2019 as a self organised, members-led food co-op on a council estate in north London. Our members have access to extremely affordable groceries (sourced, packed and distributed collectively) and organise free food larders around the school holidays. We believe that by working together to meet our needs, we can make our community stronger, better connected and more resilient.

In early 2020, we set up Cooperation Town as a new umbrella organisation to enable us to share our model with others and build a sustainable network of food co-ops across the country. We hosted a series of training sessions for new organisers wanting to set up similar co-ops in their own communities and started supporting them in doing so. Our vision is for a community-led food co-op on every street, in every town!

By the time Covid-19 hit, we were well placed to quickly respond - we had the space, organisers, links in our community and reliable sources of free and cheap food. On the day after lockdown started, we distributed our first delivery to 40 of the most vulnerable Camden household. We are currently (Mid May) making weekly deliveries to around 150 households on low or no income, including families and individuals referred to us by local agencies, charities, schools and concerned neighbours. Our free parcels contain fresh fruit & veg, bread, tinned and dry food, healthy snacks, baby food and cooked meals.

But we know that for many of us, including Cooperation Kentish Town organisers, the crisis didn’t start on 23 March 2020 and will not end when the lockdown is lifted. Like millions of people around the country, many of us lived in poverty and precarity before the pandemic and will continue to endure these conditions after the crisis is officially over. Our situation is not informed by a virus, but by precarious jobs that pay poverty wages, unaffordable bad housing and a cruel benefits system that literally kills thousands of our class.We are now working with groups across the UK - including our friends at Cooperation Birmingham - to develop our own Covid exit plan. Together we can resist going back to the harmful ‘normality’ that impacted all our lives and plot our way towards a better future.

I have a proposal to contact some people who’ve received the meals and see if they’ll write a short piece about how it has impacted them. This could become a regular feature, we could say at the end of the piece that if you want to write the next one get in touch.

I think it could also be cool to have a little piece from a driver, kitchen crew, backroom etc on how they’ve found it, what motivates them, their take on the project. We might also ask them for independent content on any projects they themselves are involved with.

We should also ask other groups if there’s anything they’d like to contribute to our newsletter including other coops and intiatives like ours in the city. We could also have a feature on some projects nationally and internationally.

Is it worth setting up a separate email address for the newsletter?

4 Likes

Can I see a PDF of the first newsletter so can think about whether we can just do recurring/rotating features? So section 1 is the testimonial, section 2 participant contribution, section 3 other projects locally, section 4 international/national? Just a rough suggestion.

Maybe @Leo can get it up on the website?

We could use the volunteers email I guess or just create a new one. I don’t mind.

Ideas for copy from the meeting:

  • recipient contribution 200 words
  • participation contribution 200 words
  • mask making 200 words
  • article on platform capitalism / co-op cycle and how the pandemic is changing trends and how workers can organise in it. 400 words

after that we have maybe 100 words spare

Hey, I can ask at the Post-Covid Infrastructure group if someone would like to contribute with a short article on their mutual aid group in a different town. I also talked to one of the participants who is potentially interested in writing something. I will chase up. And I’m also happy to write something if we can’t get enough content. I think we should publicise widely (social media, participants mailing list…) that we are looking for contributions.

Ok, so Cooperation Kentish Town would like to contribute to our newsletter, and they said that they are also inspired to start something similar down there! They have asked for a pdf of the newsletter, and if there are any left they’d like to get one posted.

I’m trying to find out if they can have their article ready for this week. I also spoke to one of the participants (in the kitchen and delivering) and they will try to write a piece as well. I’ll keep you updated.

2 Likes

Here is a contribution from Shamima Akhtar, who has been receiving meals from us:
The meals have been really helpful whilst i’ve been isolating alone. I started to receive the government parcel a few weeks ago, but it contains lots of food that I can’t eat and there’s no way of amending what’s in the deliveries. With the Solidarity Kitchen meals I know i’ll have a nutritious meal in the evening that I can actually eat, which removes the stress of having to decide on what to eat and gives me something to look forward to in the evenings. I first heard about the meals on my social media from friends that worked at the Warehouse Cafe, which I regularly visited before the lockdown. It’s been really nice to feel supported during this pandemic, especially because the meals do not require you to share lots of personal information to access them, which I had to do in order to receive help from the government. This is the type of unquestioned support ‘vulnerable’ people like me need, rather than charity-based support that puts pity at its centre.

2 Likes

Here is a contribution from Beatrice Hughes, one of our participants:
Volunteering with the Solidarity Kitchen is a joy and a privilege. I have been working with the project as both a kitchen volunteer and delivering meals to doorsteps approximately once or twice a week since the beginning of lockdown. It is essential work being done in the face of Governmental negligence and absence of support. For me, it is a method of necessary engagement with the wider community during the uncertainty of this pandemic. In the kitchen, I am often delegated tasks such as counting skyscrapers of takeaway boxes, cleaning a majestically large cooking pot the size of a cruise ship (in which I often imagined myself rowing down the canals of Birmingham using the paddle) and making vats of dressing with balsamic vinegar and low sugar date syrup. Not to mention tossing ginormous cauldrons of salad.
In transit, myself and a trusty friend whip round our routes into the nooks and crannies of the city to distribute the freshly cooked meals of that same day. The app used is efficient and user-friendly and the routes are planned so your last stop is the one closest to your house. I have been humbled and moved by the gratitude and the humour of those people I have met from afar at their doors. The strict PPE and hygiene practices within the project immediately quelled my anxiety around viral contagion. I have relished meeting new like-minded people from around the city and becoming familiar with new and uncharted areas. The Solidarity Kitchen team have without fail been supportive, friendly and kind, and this extends also to everyone I have encountered working with the project. Their stamina, altruism and determination is an outstanding example of the kind of mutual solidarity we must aim for.

2 Likes

@Sergio can the participant you spoke to have their bit published next week? I think it will be a regular feature so good to have it planned in advance.

If we can get the piece from Cooperation Kentish Town and one more article I think we’ll be fine this week. Keep looking for content as the earlier we do this the better.

Should we suggest Bea to look for a word which is not “volunteer”? Otherwise, both contributions are really cool!

The participant I spoke to has a bit of confidence issues, so we’re not sure if they will be able to write something. They’re trying though! And Cooperation Kentish Town is not being very responsive, so I don’t think we could count on their piece for this week…

Maybe we could include a short explanation on why we don’t use the volunteer terminology?

I think we can just edit Bea’s one to say participant, should be fine.

@sean_f was gonna write something about gig economy?

Participants NOT volunteers

For some time Cooperation Birmingham solidarity kitchen has slipped into the common usage of the term ‘volunteer’ to describe people who are working towards the project. This is often used by charities and NGOs, the ‘voluntary sector’, if you will, to describe all the people who put in work for their cause. This is a distinction made between the people at the top, the people who get paid and even profit from the cause and the people who put in hours of labour to make things happen because they see the value in it. Volunteers often do not have a real say or stake in what happens in the organisation they work for and tend to be instrumentalised for this reason.

In Cooperation Birmingham this is not something we hope to replicate. We are not a charity or an NGO and we do not work for anyone but the people involved, whether that be people working in the kitchen, people receiving meals, people driving, people working hard on this very newsletter! Anyone can contribute ideas to the project and has the power to enact them with the work and agreement of other participants. We are all participants and we can all participate! We think this is a much better word to use for this reason. Power, autonomy and love to you all <3

3 Likes

This is 223 words currently so feel free to edit, just something I thought up on the topic. We might also shorten or cut other sections if we don’t get time to sort them out. As it stands we are still waiting for contributionson gig economy and mask making.

With current contributions we stand at 689 words.

This is great. but I think the last sentence needs to be removed even though it’s cute. more like an email than a newsletter.

Contribution from Cooperation Kentish Town:

Cooperation Kentish Town was set up in 2019 as a self organised, members-led food co-op on a council estate in north London. Our members have access to extremely affordable groceries (sourced, packed and distributed collectively) and organise free food larders around the school holidays. We believe that by working together to meet our needs, we can make our community stronger, better connected and more resilient.

In early 2020, we set up Cooperation Town as a new umbrella organisation to enable us to share our model with others and build a sustainable network of food co-ops across the country. We hosted a series of training sessions for new organisers wanting to set up similar co-ops in their own communities and started supporting them in doing so. Our vision is for a community-led food co-op on every street, in every town!

By the time Covid-19 hit, we were well placed to quickly respond - we had the space, organisers, links in our community and reliable sources of free and cheap food. On the day after lockdown started, we distributed our first delivery to 40 of the most vulnerable Camden household. We are currently (Mid May) making weekly deliveries to around 150 households on low or no income, including families and individuals referred to us by local agencies, charities, schools and concerned neighbours. Our free parcels contain fresh fruit & veg, bread, tinned and dry food, healthy snacks, baby food and cooked meals. We collaborate with other local groups to share information and resources, making sure any Camden resident in need has access to basic supplies.

But we know that for many of us, including Cooperation Kentish Town organisers, the crisis didn’t start on 23 March 2020 and will not end when the lockdown is lifted. Like millions of people around the country, many of us lived in poverty and precarity before the pandemic and will continue to endure these conditions after the crisis is officially over. Our situation is not informed by a virus, but by precarious jobs that pay poverty wages, unaffordable bad housing and a cruel benefits system that literally kills thousands of our class.

We are now working with groups across the UK - including our friends at Cooperation Birmingham - to develop our own Covid exit plan. Together we can resist going back to the harmful ‘normality’ that impacted all our lives and plot our way towards a better future.