MAEDT is a community development trust dedicated to creating opportunities and improving outcomes for the local community of Mayfield and Easthouses. A key value of the Trust is to work towards alleviating poverty. With that goal in mind, MAEDT runs a wide range of different projects that share one key thing in common: the creation of long-term solutions for local people.
MAEDT has been running since 2007 and new projects are continuously being introduced, including the Community Food Pantry which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. As well as the pantry, MAEDT runs and hosts projects including a school uniform bank, debt and energy clinics, drop-in sessions with the local Citizens Advice Bureau, employability support, a men’s mental health group, a kinship carers group and a ‘wheelbeing’ hub for bicycle repairs and socialising. Central to these groups and projects is MAEDT’s pavilion, community garden and café, where a hub of different activities take place on a daily basis, come rain or shine.
MAEDT’s Pantry and Pavilion
Over the last 2 years, MAEDT saw how the pandemic increased unemployment and food bank referrals in the Mayfield and Easthouses area. Wanting to focus on reducing food poverty and improving people’s access to healthy food, MAEDT introduced a community food pantry. ‘The Pantry’ is a shop where food items are marked as either 1 or 2 credits each, and shoppers can buy 10 credits for £3.50. In addition to the credits, members are offered free fresh fruit and vegetables, sanitary products and bakery items.
To shop at the Pantry, individuals must become members. This free requirement helps to create a sense of equality among staff and users, so that people can be open about what they need and when they need it. The get-to-know-you membership model has helped people to feel comfortable in sharing personal stories about their mental health, challenges within their home life and stressors they are experiencing. It has become a hub where trust between local people can grow.
The Pantry helps to remove the stigma associated with accessing free and discounted food, providing resources that are much needed in a dignified and empowering way. Rather than feeling shame about not being able to afford food or cook from scratch with it, members are encouraged to broaden their cooking knowledge, introduce new flavours and be imaginative with healthy ingredients. Additionally, buying more affordable food from The Pantry means that members can put money towards other essentials such as energy bills, making this a service that helps in more ways than one.
The outside space at MAEDT’s ‘Pavilion’ hub underpins a lot of their work. Gardening activities act as vehicles for volunteering, community payback and rehabilitation. Using the garden in these ways is a non-stigmatising option for people belonging to vulnerable groups and can help them to better manage their own wellbeing. Moreover, the garden offers a safe space for people to improve their mental health by making connections with others, their community, and with nature. Local women Sharon Hill, who is also the manager at MAEDT, explained to us that individuals volunteering together at the Pavilion learn to bring out skills in one another, for example using maths to plot out a garden project, or conversation skills to engage with other volunteers who may find socialising difficult.
“All of our volunteers offer something unique; a skill, knowledge or vulnerability that can help bring out something in another person.“Sharon Hill, MAEDT Manager.
How was the Fund used?
Part of the grant that MAEDT received from the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund was used to pay for MAEDT’s Enterprise Development Worker, so that the Pavillion could open more often. The funding also paid for a structure in the garden called a Polycrub, as well as a pergola, making the expansion of gardening projects for volunteers possible.
MAEDT is always looking to the future and thinking about what the community in Mayfield and Easthouses will need next. Aside from the impending cost of living crisis and responding to what looks set to be a difficult winter, ideas for upcoming projects include a sensory park, an electronic rickshaw, and collaboration with partner organisations to embed the pantry model in other areas. For other places in Midlothian to set up their own pantry initiative, a large, centralised project would need to be organised to ensure that food is being dispersed equally. Sharon’s idea would be to use MEADT’s Pavilion as the central location for donations, and to use it as a network hub for distribution.
Reaching this point has taken several years of hard work from MAEDT volunteers and those who work for the organisation in a paid capacity, but it certainly seems as though all the hard work has been worth it. We applaud the team for their worthwhile efforts, and we look forward to supporting the Trust with its ongoing development in the years ahead.