Community activists’ new conversation around kitchen table

The community activists behind one of the most successful projects in South Norwood have begun a new exercise, which they are calling The Kitchen Table Project – but this aims at being about a lot more than cooking meals for friends and neighbours.

Banging bangers: the community kitchen food runs each week have provided a vital helpline for many across the borough

What Laura Whittall, one of the founders of the South Norwood Community Kitchen, is trying to do is form a co-operative pool of expertise, which can be used to help those in need.

“We are counsellors, chefs, psychologists, benefit and housing advisors, mothers, brothers, sisters and, most of all, friends,” Whittall said in announcing The Kitchen Table Project.

“That pretty much sums up all of the different roles that we have to play to support our community.”

From a once-a-week free meal served up for dozens of people in a church hall that started three years ago, using donated food from supermarkets and allotment gardeners, the South Norwood Community Kitchen has grown into an impressive network of volunteers who this year, when the covid-19 lockdown began in March, established their own version of Meals On Wheels with two weekly deliveries for the vulnerable, those shielding and those in need.

That collaborative model has persuaded Whittall and other members of the Community Kitchen to consider how they might extend their operations.

“We are always getting asked to support our people with anything from housing, employment to benefits advice,” she said.

“We have some knowledge in this through our own personal experiences and from Googling things on the internet while on the go, but we want to be able to support our people with more expertise. Many are saying they don’t know how to access support or that the current ways of getting advice are very clinical, bureaucratic and make them feel uncomfortable and judged.

“We therefore want to start what we are calling The Kitchen Table Project, which is about bringing local people with expertise and knowledge in various things to help to support members of our community who really need it through inviting them to a once-a-month, covid-safe chat at the community kitchen,” Whittall said.

Time for a chat: community kitchen founders Laura Whittell and Paul Mitchell

“If you or someone you know has experience in anything from legal rights, benefits advice, housing, employment, counselling, drugs and alcohol support, we would love to get you around our ‘socially-distanced’ kitchen table to share your knowledge and also to meet someone new from our amazing community!

“Plus, there’s great food. Please get in touch if you are interested.”

The Community Kitchen is also closely involved with the refurbishment of the Socco Cheta community centre on Portland Road, and they are currently recruiting a website designer.

“We have a small budget and would love to work with someone who is also passionate about community projects and social change.”

If you or you know someone who could do this for us please email to get some more info.

Read more here: ‘Community energy has come through in these testing times’

To find out more about the South Norwood Community Kitchen, or to make a donation of funds or food, visit their website here

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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