Tackling food inequality

Declan Allison

09 December 2016

Footprints Women’s Centre in Poleglass is a great example of what can happen when a group of determined women decide to take matters into their own hands.

Established in 1991, the centre aims to enable women and children to grow to ensure their voices are heard, and that they take their rightful place in a just and equal society.

Footprints developed because of a need to find new and innovative solutions to social and economic issues facing women in the Colin Area of Outer West. Developing the social economy is a major theme. It is acknowledged that by using solutions to achieve not-for-profit aims, the social economy has a distinct and valuable role to play in helping create a strong, sustainable, prosperous and inclusive society.

Access to healthy food can be problematic. Footprints decided to help to protect and enhance the health of the population and contribute to tackling health inequalities. Evidence and practise shows the need for effective Community Development approaches to ensure that food and nutrition work is appropriate to local people.

A kitchen garden was established in 1997 to provide fresh, quality food for the centre. The harvest this year included cauliflower, broccoli, peas, carrots, onions, tomatoes, chard and beetroot. The fresh produce was used in the catering service providing the children in the Daycare facility and the Senior Citizens group with healthy, tasty soups and casseroles.

The kitchen garden also enables the centre to offer skills development and training in growing fruit and vegetables to local residents who are encouraged to volunteer in the garden. Not only does this enable people to grow food, but it also increases and improves the physical activity levels and mental well-being of participants.

The central principles of Footprints Women’s Centre are to create a healthier food culture in the area, a healthier food economy for local people, and a safe food environment.

The Centre has prioritised nutrition as key to improving health and in May 2009 successfully obtained 5 years' funding from the Big Lottery through the Colin Empowerment Project for a range of Nutrition and Physical Activity programmes. Each programme combines cooking skills with a fun physical activity and a food growing project. All programmes are accessible to the local community.

By working together the centre staff, volunteers, and local people develop a keen understanding of healthy eating, grow the food they need, and provide mutual support.