Chef Ali Cartmell and volunteer delivery driver Eileen Prior are helping feed those in self-isolation.

Peebles based social enterprise The Food Foundation will open the region’s first digital farmers’ market several weeks ahead of schedule, in a bid to support the local community during the current Covid-19 crisis.

The organisation had intended to open the new online market in late April but decided to bring forward the launch to provide a service that will support locals, especially those who are self-isolating. The market will also give a boost to local businesses who may be suffering as a result of the pandemic.

From 1st April , produce made or grown in the Scottish Borders will be available to order online from NeighbourFood.co.uk for collection from the Victoria Park Centre on Thursday evenings between 5pm and 7pm or delivered by volunteers.

The new market will complement the Foundation’s current “Meals on Wheels” service, providing meals for anyone who is isolated, housebound or simply struggling to feed themselves during the emergency.

The Food Foundation’s normal service, providing practical commercial catering experience and online training for people with learning disabilities and other disabilities, has had to be put on hold as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yvonne MacLaren, Organisational Manager at the Food Foundation, said: “The NeighbourFood market will be a lifeline for locals as we face the challenges brought about by Covid-19. Together with our “Meals on Wheels” service, we’ll be doing our bit to ensure local people are fed and local producers have an income.”

Charity Forth Environment Link, has been instrumental in getting the Peebles NeighbourFood off the ground, thanks to a £208,000 grant from the Scottish Government’s EU LEADER programme to set up 8 new click and collect farmer’s markets across Scotland.

Grant funding is still available to other local organisations looking to set up a market in the Scottish Borders, following in footsteps of The Food Foundation.

Regional Food Project Coordinator, Stuart Guzinski from Forth Environment Link said: “We’re offering funding and support to organisations who would like to set up a second market in the Scottish Borders. NeighbourFood is a sustainable way to food shop, that supports local producers and cuts down food miles and food waste. In the current crisis, we need our local producers more than ever.”

It is hoped another NeighbourFood market will open in the Borders in the near future. Scottish Borders Leader Action Group Chair, Gary White said:

“We’re on the look-out for a second organisation to join NeighbourFood, helping people across the Borders region to get access to fresh produce on their doorstep and support local producers all at the same time. Market hosts will be given funding, training and promotional support from Forth Environment Link to set up their own NeighbourFood market.”

Anyone interested in setting up their own NeighbourFood market in the Borders should  contact Stuart Guzinski: stuart@forthenvironmentlink.org