VOLUNTEERS and residents in and around Keighley are being given the chance to develop new skills and work experience thanks to a new shop that has opened its doors today in the heart of Keighley's town centre.
Children from Braithwaite Special School
with volunteer Ross Parton, Howard Botting
of the RDS and Carolyn Lowing
The Local Produce Shop, situated on North Street, is a not-for profit enterprise and is run by a small group of volunteers. As well as selling locally sourced fruit, vegetables, meats and dairy produce, the Defra funded shop is also providing work experience to people who have been out of the work place for a long period of time, have learning difficulties or come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Children from Braithwaite Special School in the town have gained valuable experience whilst working on the project and some even intend to bake produce for sale at the shop.
The newly refurbished premises have been made possible by a £36,000 grant from Defra's Rural Enterprise Scheme - aimed primarily at supporting farmers, the scheme supports many projects in the broader community.
The shop was set up in the former Scott Street premises seven years ago with help from long-serving volunteer Carolyn Lowing.
"The shop gives people in Keighley and the surrounding areas easy access to good quality, locally produced food, sourced mainly through registered organic growers or small growers, and also provides valuable work opportunities for people looking to get back into the workplace," said Carolyn.
"Most of our produce is sourced from within a 35-mile radius where possible, which means it has travelled a minimal number of food miles and remains as fresh as possible. We'll also be holding some basic food demonstrations in the shop to give people ideas on how they can use the ingredients to prepare fresh, healthy meals from scratch."
In a boost for local producers, the shop is also part of a wider initiative called B-fit - which aims to raise awareness of local food issues such as healthy eating and the benefits of buying local food.
Ross Parton is one of those to benefit from the Defra funding; he has volunteered at the Local Produce Shop since January on a part-time basis following a 12-month absence from work due to injury and says the shop has given him a real boost.
Volunteer Ross Parton and children from Braithwaite Special
School in Keighley
"After being unable to work for so long due to injury, volunteering for just a few hours a week has given my confidence a real boost and has enabled me to gain new skills and experience within a work environment. Volunteering has also allowed me to meet new people and get involved in what is a very worthwhile project."
Howard Botting, an adviser from the Rural Development Service in Yorkshire, added:
"The Local Produce Shop is an excellent example of what can be achieved through a combination of Defra support and the time and effort of people in the local community to make this a project that works.
"As this is a not-for-profit enterprise, any money that is made is ploughed straight back into the business so that it can continue to be sustainable and benefit local food producers, volunteers and consumers."