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Every year we invite all the members of our veg scheme to participate in a survey. We had a record response this year. As always it's so helpful to hear your views and get a better insight into your Growing Communities experience.
Here's a summary of our key findings:
The majority (74%) of members veg bag subscriptions feed one or 2 people, while only 21% of households have children to feed.
Some 70% of our members are 26-45 year olds. Ethnicity remains very much the same as last year - 88% white British or white other. There's been a significant increase in members who tell us you have a disability from 1% last year to 6%.
There was overwhelmingly positive feedback on the quality, quantity and variety of fruit and veg we supply: 83-95% of you rated the quality and quantity of veg as good or excellent. Slightly lower scores on variety at 67% and value for money. We are looking at what we can do to address this (within ecological and price limits, of course).
A lot of you shared that you appreciate that mostly this is the nature of seasonal, local food.
We're pleased to see our efforts to improve the fruit has been well received. Overall you were more positive about the variety in the fruit bags this year compared to last year and a lot more satisfied with the quality.
You are food waste angels - 51% say you waste nothing. An impressively low 12% throw away a couple of pieces of fruit and veg or more a week compared to 24% last year.
Meat eating is on the rise and veganism is declining. Some10% of members are vegan (compared to 13% last year), Vegetarianism has stayed relatively the same at 26%, and the amount of people eating fish or meat more than once a week has increased since last year from 25% to 30%.
You're a community of keen cooks with 94% of you cooking from scratch all or most days of the week.
The biggest difference we're making to members' cooking and shopping habits is you're eating more seasonally, eating more veg and using less packaging.
A phenomenal 96% walk or cycle to your collection points.
We were very happy to hear that Bren's friendly welcoming presence at the Old Fire Station pick-up is much appreciated!
Some of you mentioned lighting issues at your collection point. Our veg scheme team is already on the case to light up your cupboards.
We have heard your calls to bring back swap boxes at the few collection points that don't have them. We'll aim to do this when we can be sure we can do it in a Covid-safe way.
As always, packaging is a hot topic, although less so than last year. There were some more requests to reduce the amount of plastic that we use, alongside requests to increase our use of rigid packaging such as punnets for delicate items to avoid squashed tomatoes.
We're always looking for ways to reduce our packaging. Plastic is an ongoing project, and we're working with our farmers and keeping en eye on latest developments in bio-plastics to find an alternative that is genuinely less polluting. Paper and card have other, less obvious environmental impacts, but we also recognise that food waste has a bigger impact and we will look at better ways to protect your delicate produce in transit.
Thanks for your positive comments about our customer service. You said we're easy to get hold of and provide considered responses, we're friendly and swift to resolve issues.
Thanks for your understanding when we are less able to answer phone calls.
We had so many lovely comments about the service we provide, which were very appreciated.
"Keep up the good work. Supermarket vegetables now seem like odd horrid things to us now compared to your lush, soily, real vegetables."
"We love getting the veg delivery each week and plan all of our meals for the week around the veg we'll be getting. Being a member of the scheme has significantly increased the quantity and quality of seasonal veg that we eat as well as reducing plastic use and food waste. Thanks for all your hard work and I hope the veg scheme continues to flourish and expand to serve more people."
“The service is lovely - not cheap but something I feel is worth it while I can afford it. Lovely seasonal food of a completely different quality to supermarket produce. GC is a lovely and warm community that is really trying to do its best for Hackney. Keep it up!”
There was also some very useful constructive criticism. Your comments were mostly around quantity/portion sizes and variety, plus some experiences with quality. We're working our way through this feedback to address it.
Ultimately, we can't guarantee that all produce will always be perfect by the time you pick it up but we really encourage you to let us know if you receive something that's not at its best, or a bit squashed, and we'll make it up to you. We don't want you to feel like you're burdening us or you have to put up with it. Just email us!
Also, while we recognise that seasonal eating can be challenging at times, there's not a huge amount that we can change while still sticking to our principles. We prioritise food that's ecologically produced and fairly traded and grown as close to Hackney as practically possible. We passionately believe that our future food security depends on localised trade and organic farming. But we appreciate this is a very different approach to most food retailers, and can take some getting used to. We want to live in a world where people can adapt to what's available and be resourceful and creative when an abundance of carrots, kale or beetroot comes your way.
We're working to get back to those of you who asked for a specific response to your survey feedback, so bear with us.
Many thanks to all our members for being part of this scheme and participating so wholeheartedly.