From the beginning, a ‘more than profit’ approach has been central to the direction and development of River Cottage. It means that as we strive to be a successful commercial business we also have a fundamental objective to do more than make a financial return.
We use our brand and assets to support causes we believe in and work with organisations who share our values. We endeavour to promote sustainability – environmental, social and economic – and support campaigns for change. Not just our own like Chicken Out and Fishfight but others where we hope our voice can help make a difference.
Over the years, we have worked with charities and other groups close to the hearts of Hugh and the team, both within the local community and further afield. Most recently, we have chosen to focus on Switchback, a charity that helps young offenders settle into a new way of living that includes work or education after their release.
In addition, we support a charity very local to us in Axminster - HALFF (Health and Local Food for Families) and our River Cottage Canteens support another great charity Surfers Against Sewage. More on these great charities further down the page.
Here at River Cottage HQ, we’ve been able to work on ideas that have developed into new entities of their own and continue to remain part of the River Cottage ‘family’ – Energyshare and Crowdfunder UK.
- Energyshare has connected 1000 community groups and provided £500k of funding for these groups to build renewable community energy projects across the UK.
- Crowdfunder has now raised £2.5m, since its inception in 2013, of direct funding from communities, for thousands of community projects across the nation, whilst also unlocking hundreds of thousands of other third-party funding. These projects are businesses, social enterprises and charities and in its short life become the number one in the UK of its kind.
Switchback helps 18-24 year-old ex-offenders to build on catering skills learned in prison kitchens, as a starting point for finding work and establishing stability in their lives after release.
River Cottage make financial donations to the charity but our support goes beyond this. Hugh has been welcoming Switchback trainees to River Cottage HQ and his Canteens for some time now, with one graduate of the scheme being employed at the Axminster Canteen for two years.
Hugh commented: When I first learned about Switchback, I was deeply impressed by the charity and what it sets out to do - though the word 'charity' doesn't seem quite right. 'Family' is a better description because, at Switchback, there is no sense that you only get one shot: support is ongoing. That's one of the reasons why I think Switchback is a success. It also, of course, offers genuine opportunities and positive, practical options to ex-offenders. I think the work placements make a real difference, not just to the young people themselves, but to all of us. Everybody at River Cottage involved with the trainees when they visit say it's one of the best days of their working year!
Groups of trainees are invited to spend a few days at River Cottage several times a year where, as well as developing new technical skills in the kitchen, they learn about our philosophy on food and experience the kind of cooking, based on well-sourced local, seasonal ingredients, that River Cottage has long championed. We stay in touch with many of our trainees and believe this time they spent at River Cottage HQ has positive, long-lasting implications for their futures.
HALFF delivers cookery sessions for disadvantaged children, individuals and families as well as older people with heart disease or diabetes. Good food is essential. Their sessions are focused on more than just cooking, they also increase awareness of seasonality, nutrition, local food produce, through to life skills and team work for youth clubs / schools or improving and maintaining health for those with health concerns. They work around East Devon, South Somerset and West Dorset, and respond to the needs of these communities.
Food education can improve health outcomes. Children are currently facing an epidemic of environment led diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. Their fun sessions reach out to children at a very sensitive and influential time of their lives; where building healthy relationship with food could change their health now and in the future.
They also have the only Greengrocer in Axminster called ‘No HALFF Measures’, selling local and organic produce (just a short walk from the Axminster Canteen).
Surfers Against Sewage
Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) is an environmental charity protecting the UK’s oceans, waves and beaches for all to enjoy safely and sustainably, via community action, campaigning, volunteering, conservation, education and scientific research.
SAS projects target coastal environmental issues including marine litter, sewage pollution, climate change, toxic chemicals, shipping, industry and coastal development.
SAS aim to create measurable improvements in the state of our oceans, waves and beaches through changes in public behaviour, government policy and industry practices. The charity’s objectives are:
1) To undertake and promote for the benefit of the public the conservation, protection, improvement and ecologically sustainable management of the marine environment including associated land, shoreline and structures.
2) To advance the education of the public in the conservation, protection, improvement and ecologically sustainable management of the marine environment including associated land, shoreline and structures.
This year River Cottage Canteens have raised £2,853.00 for SAS.