THOSE involved with a group that improves people’s well-being, reduces isolation, helps families eat nutritiously or aims to provide a warm safe space this winter, you can still apply for one of Devon County Council's (DCC) grants. 

This month marks the first birthday of the council's Growing Communities Fund (GCF) and since its launch it has been supporting local communities through the cost-of-living crisis.

DCC have awarded more than £530,000 to 300 different local projects, many of which are helping communities cope with continued high costs of food and bills.

The council set up the GCF in 2022 to support proactive, effective, measurable and sustainable actions to enable individuals and communities to build self-reliance and improve mental health and wellbeing.

Since then, it has developed into one of the authority's responses to the fastest rise in the cost of living for 40 years.

According to the Office of National Statistics, the price of consumer goods and services rose at the fastest rate in four decades in the year to October 2022.

The cost of food increased by 14.6% in the year to last September reaching its highest level since 1980 and continues to rise.

DCC grants aims to help local groups and organisations to become more resilient and help those in their communities’ cope with these financial pressures.

Groups the council are encouraging to apply include those that bring communities together for meaningful activities and social interaction, offer local people a warm safe haven during winter or alleviate food poverty by producing or distributing surplus food and essentials or who offer communities the means to cook nutritious meals on a budget.

But regardless of the activity every group that has received or been pledged funding has one thing in common – a willingness to build self-reliance and resilience within a community.

For instance, LOVE Food CIC received one of the council's grants to help produce a recipe booklet focussing on healthy, cheap, sustainable wholefood plant-based recipes which could then be given to participants of their free cookery courses and other local community groups.

In their application they said: 'We want to show local people that they can eat delicious food, which is also good for the planet, and affordable and easy to make.'

Nourish, based in Axminster used their funding to enable them to offer a ‘warm space’ this winter for members of the community who are affected by the fuel crisis. 

A spokesperson from Nourish said: 'We will provide tea and coffee, soups, cakes and entertainment.  This will allow the most vulnerable in our community a warm and safe place to come and meet others, which will also help to combat loneliness and isolation.'

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Public Health, Communities and Equality, said: 'People right across the county are feeling the effect of consistently high food prices and higher energy costs.

'We have seen how the Growing Communities Fund can provide vital support to local communities that make a genuine difference.

'I’m pleased to be able to announce more funding and we would particularly welcome applications for projects that support communities through the financial crisis, helping them to become more resilient, such as projects that help ensure communities are well nourished and kept warm.'