Tesco helps turn waste food into Norwood community spirit

An innovative community kitchen opens its doors for the first time in South Norwood tomorrow, helping take what might otherwise be valuable food allowed to go to waste, and turn it into delicious meals for the homeless and poor, and anyone else who wants to turn up, in an effort to bring local people together.

The Community Kitchen aims to help bring together all parts of the community in South Norwood

The South Norwood Community Kitchen will be serving up free meals each Saturday lunchtime from tomorrow in the hall of South Norwood Baptist Church on Oliver Avenue. But to continue to do so, the founders, Paul Mitchell and Laura Whittall, need another £5,000 in donations in their appeal for equipment and support.

Mitchell and Whittall are not professional foodsters, but they arrived in South Norwood, liked the area and its people, and wanted to try to do something to help others while dealing with one of the flagrant wastes of our modern age: discarded food.

They start their venture with donations from Tesco. “But thats not to say other people cant get involved – and in fact we would very much like local grocers and the like to give us dibs on their unsold stock. It’s better we make something of it than it just goes into the bin,” Mitchell says.

“We then cook up whatever we get, supplemented by our own stores, and dish up a hearty meal for all who want to come and have it. The menu of course will vary depending on what we’re given, but its always guaranteed to be good.

The large church hall means that 30 or so people can be catered for at one time, Mitchell says, “… in big long communal tables where the idea is everybody from the various walks of life they may come from sits down and eats together”.

He adds: “We want to make a point that it is open to all and sundry, we won’t be means testing anyone’s eligibility, if you want to come and eat, just turn up at 12.15 and be seated.”

The scheme is based on another project, FoodCycle.

“We liked the idea so much we decided to do our own thing, without the bureaucracy of an overarching charity,” Mitchell says.

“It’s not a new idea, we haven’t reinvented the wheel, just bringing it to the local area. In a nutshell we collect unsold food via Fareshare – in our case from Tesco – add to it what we need to, and cook up a hearty meal for the whole community to enjoy for free.

Laura Whittell and Paul Mitchell: true altruism

“To begin with, it is Saturday lunchtimes, but we hope to expand that, and add outreach work to the mix once we are up and running. The big idea is that our project is for absolutely everybody.

“Of course the hope is that we will manage to reach those most in need, but by opening it up to everyone, not only does it promote community cohesion, but also someone who may be too proud or not go to a soup kitchen say, for any other reason, can come here and not be assumed to be rich or poor, as it will be open to everyone.

“People find it hard to comprehend that altruism can be truly that, but in this case I’d say it is. We have nothing to gain other than the knowledge that we might have had an impact in some small way and that we’ve not just sat at home watching TV.

“I am hoping to get funding from big business and the like, as part of their corporate responsibility, but this will probably only open once we have proved we can run it, hence the crowdfunding now so we can knock it into shape.

“We are also keen to work with other local businesses, grocers and the like, maybe even allotment holders, to see if we could collect any potential waste food from them. It will save them disposal costs, and give us stock to work with.

“At the moment, the costs and additional purchases we are paying for, so we are looking to crowdfund, to make us a bit more self sufficient, so all help will be gratefully received. And we look forward to meeting lots of new people tomorrow, too.”


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