Frontiers’ volunteers: Causes, Communities and Courgettes

Author: Anastasia Long

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteers have been at the forefront of community and societal responses. This week, we talk to fellow Frontons Catrin OwenLucy Thompson and Rosie Miller about their volunteering work with Good Food Matters, an organization that enables everyone to grow and cook nutritiously balanced meals making a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of the South London community. 

Good Food Matters logo and mission

What are your backgrounds and roles at Frontiers? 

“I work as a social media specialist in the Communications Department and I have been at Frontiers for around a year. My background is in biology with a degree from the University of Bristol. However, I was quite keen to combine my interest in science with digital marketing, which is how I fell into the social media space. Now I work on the promotion of the journal portfolios as well as some corporate projects,” Rosie begins. 

“I graduated from the University of Reading with a degree in English literature before moving into a career in open access publishing. At Frontiers, I am a journal specialist for Frontiers in Pediatrics. I focus on the strategic development and growth of the journal. I started at Frontiers on the same day as Rosie – that’s how we know each other,” continues Lucy. 

“I also have background in biology and I went to the University of Southampton. I joined Frontiers because I wanted a job that was related to science but not necessarily in the lab. Now, I am a research integrity specialist, which allows me to keep abreast of all the research. We focus on ethical and plagiarism checks using Frontiers' Artificial Intelligence Review Assistant (AIRA) tool and handle all the post-publications issues,” says Cat. 

What does the organization you volunteered for do? 

“Based in South London, Good Food Matters is a charity which aims to educate disadvantaged members of the community about growing food sustainably. They help enable young people to develop the skills to live a healthy lifestyle. They also supply the leftover food to food banks,” explains Rosie.

“The charity provides educational cookery classes,” continues Cat, "and they share their farm produce with the soup kitchens in South London, which is an added level to their good causes.”

“With the mission of providing good food for all, it is a really nice space to bring young and old people together to grow nutritious food, learn about cooking and share meals. It definitely makes a positive impact on the health and well-being of the community,” Lucy adds.

Lucy, Cat and Rosie with the lettuce they planted

What was your motivation for choosing Good Food Matters? 

“Under current circumstances, we have been working remotely, so I chose to do this placement to get outside, meet my colleagues and get to know them better whilst also making a difference to the South London community,” says Rosie. 

“As we found out on the day, Rosie actually has some handy gardening skills as well!” Cat comments and everyone laughs. 

“I really like the charity’s values of bringing the community together through the joy of home grown produce and sharing meals. It also builds confidence in young people and helps them develop new skills. It is a very wholesome charity – literally and figuratively!” Lucy smiles. 

“It was quite rewarding to see how much work the charity does in trying to inspire nutritious eating, especially among the disadvantaged communities,” Cat sums up. 

What did it mean to have your fellow Frontons shoulder to shoulder on the day? 

“We are lucky to work in the organization that positively encourages its employees to take time off and contribute to the local communities. It was fun to do it together and make a difference,” replies Rosie.

“It was actually very nice to spend time with each other as you don’t get to know people as well via Zooms,” Cat adds, “so we managed to build some real bonds in a real environment, too.” 

“We all come from separate teams but volunteering was something we could all take part in and collectively work together. The charity coordinator seemed to have appreciated the extra pairs of hands on their 1.5 acres of farmland!” says Lucy. 

What did you learn from the experience?  

“We planted lettuce and leeks, did some weeding and pruning and harvested some vegetables. Unfortunately, the kitchens were closed in view of COVID restrictions and we didn’t get to do any cooking but it was great to spend the whole day in the open air. The farmer was very friendly and knowledgeable and shared lots of top tips on how to sustainably grow your own food at home – whether it is tomatoes or herb gardens,” Frontons share their newly-acquired gardening enthusiasm. 

From this charity placement, Catrin, Lucy and Rosie not only took away wonderful experience of volunteering but also two courgettes each which ended up in BBQ vegetable kebabs, roasted vegetables medleys and stir-fries!

“It was very kind and heartwarming”, conclude the team. 

Cat, Lucy and Rosie with courgettes from the farm

For more than a decade, Frontons have been showing a great passion and big heart for the most pressing world causes, both as scientists and as citizens of the world. At Frontiers, we are committed to contributing to communities in a meaningful and sustainable way and encourage our people to participate in charity activities via our volunteering partner platform Alaya.​

Frontiers is a signatory of the United Nations Publishers COMPACT. This interview has been published in support of United Nations Sustainable Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being.