Plumbles and crumbles: a case study of the power of social media in helping a community food initiative

I’m a member of Transition Chichester, part of a network of local environment groups addressing the challenges we will all face because of peak oil.  An element of this is looking at how we can increase the availability of local food and take full advantage of sources that already exist.  One idea is to set up a local Abundance project to gather and make use of surplus fruit.

Back in March I came across these messages on Twitter from someone calling themselves @CrisisCrumble :
Crisis Crumble is now on Twitter! Watch our plans unfold to create a bumper harvest for the homeless of West Sussex! #homeless #chichester
Spread the word: This autumn we will accept apples, pears and berries to make Crumbles for those in Crisis #homeless #chichester
Too many apples on your tree? Donate them to us and we’ll make crumbles for those in crisis. Hence the name. Sign up #Chichester #homeless
Do you have an apple tree? Do you find yourself with an abundance of fruit come autumn? Donate them to us and we’ll put them to good use!

As well as tweeting as @DMinTransition I tweet as @TransitionChi on behalf of Transition Chichester.  I tried to make contact with Crisis Crumble – clearly there was someone of like mind in the area and we didn’t want our Abundance project to duplicate or be at cross purposes with them.  Unfortunately they didn’t respond.

 In mid April @TransitionChi tried again:
@CrisisCrumble Who are you? #Transition #Chichester are hoping to set up an Abundance Project to deal with gluts of fruit.
And on 9th May they responded:
You’re 100% right. Abundance was a direct influence. We’re a small bunch who hate waste. 100% not-for-profit. 100% volunteers

During May things really took off!~
When @StonepillowChi, a local shelter for homeless and vulnerable individuals, put out an appeal for help with a street collection at the end of the month, Crisis Crumble answered the call.  Stonepillow also asked “You work with apples, have you considered vegetables, bakes etc? we have lots donated to us.”  Understandably Crisis Crumble replied “Great idea, but one simple crumble step at a time.”

  • They also got in touch with @AndysFish – a local fish & chip shop run by the son of the proprietor of another fish & chip shop, @lafish_chi , a prominent supporter of Stonepillow among other good causes.
  • The Crisis Crumble website went live! – created by @iaingriffin of Wizz Kidd
  • @trimmtrabdeano, a local friend of Crisis Crumble, also lent his virtual support.
  • Crisis Crumble tweeted “Looking for the simplest apple crumble recipe going. It’ll feature on the website.”
  • CrisisCrumble’s Matt and Bec met TransitionChichester (represented by @DMinTransition and @passion4planet ). They kindly tweeted “Great to meet up with @TransitionChi on Tuesday – an inspirational bunch. We shared some ideas and learnt about each others’ plans.”
  • Crisis Crumble’s Deliciously Simple Apple Crumble recipe was posted on their website
  • @AndysFish donated 10kg flour, 10kg sugar, and 5 kg butter!
  • Local cake maker extraordinaire (just one of her many talents too numerous to list here!) @FlourVonSponge offered to help make crumbles
  • Crisis Crumble found time to shake buckets for @StonepillowChi in Chichester town centre

Progress in June:

  • By the middle of the month there was a possibility that Crisis Crumble might have the use of a professional kitchen to cook the crumbles!
  • A week later the first fruit donation was announced, from Marjory “Granny” Kell – surplus rhubarb, raspberries and plums. Crisis Crumble were ready to start crumbling – in the nicest possible way!
  • @RedRasbery (Sonia Rasbery, local veg growing expert and friend of Transition) offered the produce of her huge old cooking apple tree in her back garden. “Always have more apples than we use. How do I donate when ready?”
  • @VCACD (Voluntary and Community Action Chichester District tweeted “This is a brilliant initiative! will keep an eye open for apples in the park!”
  • 20th June “This is a big day for CC – our first crumbles will be assembled tomorrow and hopefully out to crisis shelters the day after that…”
  • Next day “This batch are Rhubarb and Plum Crumbles or as Mrs Crumble calls them Rhubarb Plumbles!”
  • AndysFish “Can we buy them and the money go to charity or is it a case of feeding the homeless?” Crisis Crumble replied “The original idea was give them to crisis shelters to feed the homeless. But let’s see what happens in the future, great idea tho”
  • Crisis Crumble: A massive donation of sugar has just been dropped off by the lovely people at mudfoods.com Their savoury pies are to die for! [I can vouch for that – I buy them from Chichester Farmers Market!]
  • 22nd June “First donation delivered! Thanks all involved. And we seem to have developed a nickname The Crumble People.”
  • Next day: Stonepillow said “our sleepers last night enjoyed your crumbles!! A big Thank you & to @AndysFish for supplying the ingredients to help!!!”
  • AndysFish “just spoke to my fruit and veg supplier and asked if he had any apples to be thrown. THE MAN FROM DELMONTE HE SAY YES” “Mr Terry Pasquale on the Bognor Road you’re a good man and today’s hero “
  • @lafish_chi: Good to see the chip shops in #Chichester helping charitable causes @AndysFish
  • “The CC kitchen has been a hive of activity. We’ve so far produced 48 crumbles for one shelter and will deliver apples to others”
  • @AndysFish asked do you have a big car? I just collected 6 large boxes of apples. Around 40kg’s of the blighters.  A plea went out to Transition Chichester members and others, for help making crumbles or prepping this huge quantity of apples and among others @KateLassetter, local ace copywriter, social media expert, and fan of all things creative,  offered her mum’s services: “ I’m sure mum could do some, she’s a master crumbler.” @TuppennyBarn , local organic smallholders, offered their surplus blackcurrants when ready.
  • Stonepillow tweeted “Thank you for your kind donations of apples & crumbles. They’re going down a storm!!”

Crisis Crumble found time to post about their burst of activity:

  • “Lastly on the run 14 crumbles and a tray of red apples to one of our favourite schemes. Thanks to Mrs Crumble and of course @AndysFish
  • A fabulous local hospice has received tray of shiny red apples with which they’re going to make crumbles
  • Big box of apples given to a Chichester church for their homeless Sunday lunch. Quote “No one ever gives us food donations” Share the wealth
  • 48 apples crumbles delivered to a homeless shelter in Portsmouth. Bemused was their first reaction, thankful their second.
  • @DMinTransition deserves a massive #ff for the support from day one of Crisis Crumble. Ideas, inspiration and great networking. Thank you.  [Not quite from day one, but I was glad to help and touched to be thanked at such a busy time for them!]   I replied with “Thank you so much! Well done to both of you for putting your inspiration into practice.”

In the middle of the last week of June, I emailed Matt and Bec to ask if they still needed help with the prepping.  They replied:

Hi Diana, it all went well thanks. Because they were all due their use by date we had to get rid of them quickly.
In the end we made 48 crumbles for Two Saint Mill House homeless shelter in Portsmouth, we gave a tray of apples to St Wilfrid’s Hospice, a tray to St Pancras Church for their Sunday lunch for the homeless, 12 crumbles and two trays to St Josephs in Chichester.
All in all a result.
Have had a few emails of support from transition people and an offer of blackberries which we may take up.

A major lesson from this is that we all know of fruit going to waste and now we know how they can be put to good use.   This has all happened before Crisis Crumble expected to get started in autumn.  The arrival in the last few years of social media has helped this sort of initiative grow and thrive, encouraging the use of lateral thinking and putting people in touch.  I’m sure this could be replicated across the country.

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About Diana in Chichester

Social media marketer working with small businesses, especially in the food, events, and green sectors.
This entry was posted in Abundance project, Cookery, Environment, Gardening, Green living, Local food news, Transition Chichester, Vegetables and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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