Cat Jenkins, the newly appointed Food Project Officer, introduces herself

Cat Jenkins, the newly appointed Food Project Officer, explained why she’d applied for the job in the first place.

Food’s an issue of such universal appeal, whether you care about animal and nature welfare, healthy diets for yourself and your loved-ones, food poverty and injustice, the discipline and meaning of practices such as the Eucharist and fasting – or just the wonderful sense of community that we can all share, when we break bread together or invite someone to our table. I’m hoping that we can firstly, find out what the food-and-faith landscape looks like in this country – and then support and encourage people to become more mindful, and take action, in whatever way they feel able. This might be anything from tending a few pots of herbs for the neighbours to share, to campaigning to stamp out harmful agricultural practices such as unsustainable farming of oil palms.  

Cat’s sharing garden

For my own part, well – like many of us I do love food! and I thank God every day that my daughters, cats and I have enough to eat. But after working for a while with the homeless on the Island, I realised just how many people don’t have that luxury. So I do a couple of things to try and share God’s abundance. I’ll tell you about a couple of other on a future occasion, but here’s one literally on my doorstep: our little “sharing garden” at 16 Westminster Terrace, in Douglas where I live.

There was a point some years ago, when my girls were quite small, that we hit very hard times – I wasn’t able to work, had a draughty old country house that wasn’t selling, and had very little income. We resorted to the Foodbank – and very grateful we were for it, too. In times of trouble it relieves a huge amount of stress.  Back then, though, the food parcels didn’t contain perishables – no fruit or salady stuff. Nonetheless, it was calories, and we were glad to receive it.

When we eventually sold the old house and moved into Douglas, we were a bit better off. One of my daughters, Lizzie, was then about 8. “Mum”, she asked, “do you remember when we only got fresh vegetables when our friends gave them to us?”….she was remembering pals in the Permaculture Association who used to leave us boxes of produce on the doorstep, and our lovely neighbour Wes who used to let the girls help themselves from his bursting greenhouse. 

“Yes”, said I. “Well, I don’t want anyone else to ever feel like that again. So could we throw away all the flowers”….gesturing vaguely at the front garden of our newly-acquired terraced home …”and plant loads of food, and put up a sign saying ‘HELP YOURSELF IF YOU NEED TO’?”

What an amazing girl. “You know the Ballakermeen schoolkids might scoff all the gooseberries, don’t you?” said I. “Well maybe THEY need to” said Lizzie pertly, and that was that.  (By the way, I’m sorry, Ballakermeen students, I misjudged you young people – you’ve all been exemplary!). 

So that’s effectively what I’ve done. The geraniums and hebes have been replaced with raised beds, and the front has yielded, for the past few years, small but lovely crops of strawberries, gooseberries, jostas, apples, fuchsia berries, beans, blackcurrants, blueberries, kale, daikon, spinach, and lettuce – not to mention bay, basil, parsley, mint, rosemary, oregano and curry plants. Plus catnip for the cats! 

And work’s started on the back garden too, though it has a long way to go. Last year a pear, cherry and two apple trees went in, plus a couple of grape vines, a swathe of wild garlic and another of thyme. I have a couple of people whom I’ve supplied with a steady flow of rhubarb this year, one friend who gets quite a bit of kale, and a neighbour who’s collected berries and bay leaves from by the front wall, being too shy to just walk in. I’m glad my front garden is helping people get the freshest of the fresh into their tummies this year – in some cases, fruit so fresh it’s still surprised! I’ve made some new friends, had some great conversations, and also gotten brilliant exercise weeding and planting. I’ve not gone hungry myself, either – and I’ve been constantly reminded of God’s grace in providing such abundance from soil, sun and water….

I nurture dreams of our whole street doing this one day – one neighbour growing the spuds, another the strawberries – but so far it’s plastic grass for three houses on either side of me (no judgement – I know how time-pressed people can be). But last year, one neighbour did trim back their rosemary from the back garden, and leave bunches of it on the front wall for anyone to take. A small start, but a lovely one.

Wouldn’t it be excellent if a few more people would do this, so we could exchange our gluts of produce with one another, and make it available to anyone who’s short of cash or only wants a small amount of something? The Lord wants to feed us through the abundance of nature: let’s partner with Him on it. 


Author: Ruth Jarman | Date: 1 April, 2024 | Category: Food News | Comments: 2

Comments on "Cat Jenkins, the newly appointed Food Project Officer, introduces herself"

Anne Stone:

April 2, 2024

Read " Incredible Edible" for inspirstion

Lynn Mann:

April 2, 2024

This is a great story and can be echoed throughout the Transition Town movement. I know there are GC members who are part of the TT movement. We found in 2020, for instance that Transition internationally were all doing stuff with food - growing it, sharing, gleaning (we didn't have the pickers coming from Europe!), cooking it and feeding people. Foraging wild food and preserving took off as well. So what does a FPO job look like?

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