From Farm to Food Bank

Bassetlaw Food Bank Needs a Manager

Bassetlaw Food Bank needs a manager to co-ordinate the daily running of the operation.  Local residents need to know where to turn for support.  A bright, forward-thinking, committed and energetic person is needed to make this happen.  Perhaps you know the perfect person for this role… or could it be you?  For further details on this vacancy click on the link here https://www.bassetlawfoodbank.org/food-bank-manager-position/. I only know about this job because my friend Kathy, who is a trustee of the Bassetlaw Food Bank, told me all about it. It would help if you knew a bit about Kathy…

Here’s Kathy just about to get on her bike and ride
Here’s Kathy just about to get on her bike to begin an epic ride

A kindred spirit

Most people know that I am originally a townie. Since moving from the city into the beautiful North Nottinghamshire countryside  I have made many new friends and met some remarkable women.  Some of whom you may already have been introduced to in my blog.  https://savourthemoment.co/wp-admin/edit.php?category_name=a-chat-with Now it is the turn of Kathy Cowbrough – another remarkable lady – and a kindred spirit!  Our backgrounds could not be more different. And she knows everything there is to know about food – and the Bassetlaw Food Bank.

Kathy just about to set off on a cross-country ski
Kathy about to set off cross-country skiing

Originating from Canada

Kathy is a Canadian now living in North Notts and is passionate about the importance and the promotion of healthy eating and physical activity.  Kathy had the opportunity to work as a home economics teacher in Zambia and Botswana for 5 years. Whilst the teaching was rewarding, Kathy realised she learned a great deal about real poverty… but more of that later.  

Life on the farm

Life for Kathy started on a farm in Southern Ontario.  It was a mixed farm – chickens, sheep, pigs, cattle, horses, a dog and a range of crops – hay, wheat, oats, corn and a veg plot!  There were also maple trees in the ‘bush’ on their land.  Her dad would tap the trees for the syrup every spring.  Sounds idyllic but then it was impossible to go on holiday and for a small child that’s tough… although it had its compensations.

At the age of 10 Kathy was driving tractors even though she could barely reach the pedals. It wasn’t until much later that Kathy realised how lucky she was.  Other children her own age must have envied her freedom.  In rural communities there were ‘4H Clubs’ where children could learn life-skills like gardening, cooking, sewing, animal-husbandry and of course the opportunity to meet other farm children.

It’s a bit pixilated but this is Kathy doing a sky dive in tandem
Daredevil Kathy doing a tandem skydive

Schooldays

School was something else!  A two mile walk to a ‘one room school’ which had one teacher that taught all eight grades.  A couple of good things were to come out of this.  One: it was necessary to learn at an early age how to work on your own – and two: there was a dance – a barn dance, or ceilidh as we know them – every month!  High school was a different matter – different subjects and different teachers – a different world. 

Kathy developed her interest in food and nutrition and sewing at high school.  This led to the study of Home Economics at University.  After graduation she found a job as a County Home Economist – which supported the local ‘4H Clubs’ and ‘Women’s Institutes’. This gave her the confidence she needed to take a very bold step.

Volunteering overseas

After two years Kathy volunteered to be a Home Economics teacher overseas.  A big adventure when she spent two years in a remote area of Zambia where she taught at a girls boarding school.    During the school holidays she seized the opportunity to travel – hitchhiking to Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda – can you imagine?!  After two years, she returned to Canada.  But, the shock of the return to a country of plenty was hard to take and so she went back to Africa – this time to Botswana where she stayed for three years.  To follow a British syllabus in Botswana was not without difficulty – make roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, really?  When the local food was mainly nshima (a thick porridge-like substance) – no real chance of a proper Sunday roast!

Kathy on a workingholiday in Laos
On a working holiday in Laos where Kathy was able to help with building simple kitchens for girls schools

A different view

Her challenge on the return to Canada was to highlight the unfairness of the prices paid for many foods grown in developing countries.  Armed with what she had learned on her travels, Kathy decided to take a masters in Public Health Nutrition through a bursary from the government of Nova Scotia which led to her becoming the Public Health Nutritionist in Western Nova Scotia.  Kathy says that this was a fun and rewarding time in a beautiful part of Canada that she had never previously visited. 

The Scottish connection

During her time in Botswana a young Scotsman managed to persuade her to go on a cycling holiday in Scotland.  This, and the fact that Kathy’s grandfather was born in Scotland, allowed her to work in the UK.  Dear reader, she married him!

And then there were four!

Jump forward a few years and Kathy is still here in the UK today.  However she now has 36 year old twins – a boy and a girl… and a granddaughter and another one on the way!  And as I can testify, it is hard to leave one’s family, even for a short time.  It is important to be close by and on hand – to watch them and their families grow, and to help out when needed.  A return to Canada for anything other than a holiday could not realistically be considered.

Kathy is at the summit of a monumental walk with a group of fellow walkers
Here is Kathy second from the left, she made it to the summit with a group of fellow walkers

Do you have a plan?

Kathy says that jobs in Scotland seemed to come easily.  Probably because she is very likeable and very easy to say ‘yes’ to! She asked the Health Education Board for Scotland direct if they had a plan for health and nutrition in Scotland.  They did not!  This led to jobs as a Public Health Nutritionist in Stirling, and then Edinburgh and Health Promotion officer in Glasgow as well as lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University.  A neighbour offered to look after the twins whilst she worked part time… she took up that offer and to this day they are still good friends.

Why England?

So why move to England?  It’s simple really, Kathy’s husband Graeme was offered a job that he just could not refuse and she too was fortunate to find good jobs in England.  The most rewarding of which were in Sure Start Children’s Centres in Mansfield and Langold. At the same time she set up her own business as a freelance dietician.  

Healthy eating

Kathy’s freelance work included: needs assessment and programme planning; nutrition education; training of health professionals and lay personnel; resource development; writing for the press and speaking at events. Her passion is and always has been the importance of healthy eating and physical activity to prevent long-term health problems. 

A colourful, appliqued banner declaring ‘Fair Trade Makes a Difference’
A colourful, appliqued banner declaring ‘Fair Trade Makes a Difference’

Fairtrade

Her work-schedule allowed her to get involved with some other passions too – such as: Fairtrade.  Sadly, Fairtrade in Bassetlaw, a Fairtrade district since 2009 has struggled to survive.  Many committee members had worked long and hard and have now withdrawn.  Kathy chaired Fairtrade for Bassetlaw for five years and fought to keep it alive.  But new volunteers were needed to make it work and to encourage businesses, schools and churches, to support Fairtrade and organise events to promote Fairtrade – but this was not to be.  

So many other things to do

However, so many other activities and projects fill Kathy’s life.  She enjoys Morris Dancing with the local Rattlejag dance troop; cycling distances of between 20 and 30 miles at least once a week – as well as cycling as an alternative form of transport for local trips; singing with the Retford Community Choir; Pilates; is a trustee for the Bassetlaw Food Bank; enjoys cooking particularly homegrown fare and baking bread and she has – as you might expect if you knew her – been sewing scrubs and masks for PPE during the Coronavirus Crisis.  It would not surprise you to know that she and Graeme do not have a TV – because they just do not have the time!

Kathy dressed in vibrant colours in her role as a Morris Dancer
Kathy wearing the vibrant colours of the Rattlejag Morris Troup

Most importantly, people rely on Food Banks…

Kathy’s enthusiasm for life is infectious and her willingness to get her sleeves rolled up and help out cannot be ignored.  As You now know, she is a trustee for the Bassetlaw Foodbank.  They more than most have struggled during the pandemic and this is a great concern to her.  Obviously she knows and understands the importance of health and nutrition, particularly to the vulnerable: the elderly, young families, single parents and the homeless.  These are the people who rely on Foodbanks – a sad indictment of our times.  Supplies are desperately needed.  As we emerge from lockdown, we can expect an upsurge in demand.  Bassetlaw Foodbank needs to be ready and fully stocked.  If you can help with anything at all, please get in touch. All the contact details can be found on their website https://www.bassetlawfoodbank.org/

Bassetlaw Food Bank

Bassetlaw Food Bank is a non-profit, charitable organisation which distributes emergency food parcels to people in need in Bassetlaw.  It is a local independent food bank which receives donations from residents and businesses across Bassetlaw is now working as part of the Bassetlaw Community Emergency Food Distribution Hub Team.  It works in partnership with Bassetlaw District Council and Bassetlaw Community Voluntary Service and offers assistance to those in need across the Bassetlaw district.  It has distribution centres in both Retford and Worksop.  Kathy tells me that both centres are over-stretched and need more volunteers – as well as donations.  The crisis has increased the need and consequently the stress on the two hubs.

What makes her tick?

I asked Kathy what it is that motivates her. She said quite a lot… but in essence these are her thoughts:

  • Was there any way that she could repay the privileges and opportunities that she had been given by giving opportunities to other people? 
  • Indirectly facilitating people-oriented activities 
  • The importance of healthy eating and activity
  • And above everything else… we need to be aware of the impact that our purchase choices have on others and also be aware of the support that our purchases choices can give to others

Simple really

A group of seven people having fun at a Fair Trade event
Kathy and friends at a local Fair Trade event

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