It was Barry and Karen, our two Labour county councillors, who first saw and understood the potential in Our Kitchen on the Isle of Thanet (CIC). It was their combined members’ grant along with a donation from Jenny Matterface and the CT10 fund that made the first Summer Kitchen possible. We believe that food should be healthy and, as far as possible, locally sourced. We deliberately rejected the models of a “soup kitchen” or “food bank” and wanted something that was enjoyable for both kids and adults and also “got the message over”.
This year we have opened two schools so the children can play on the school fields and use the indoor space to run around on those cold wet days of a British summer whilst their parents relax and chat together. “ Inclusive Sport” run by Tom Tsangarides organize collaborative activities rather than the usual competitive games. Sainsbury’s have provided us with volunteers every afternoon who organize small fun things for the children to do. We aim to change the atmosphere and the context in so many ways. We are welcoming, generous, accepting, relaxed, entertaining, interesting, interested, helpful and positive. We remind people of how good life can be.
By providing these venues and these occasions we enable so many people in our community to feel able to make their own contribution. Some come and entertain us with music and singing, one magician sawed the police commissioner in half, local elected representatives are seen by their electorate sometimes for the first time. Others have simply volunteered their time. There is always cooking and welcoming to be done. Leon restaurants donated our compostable take away boxes and cutlery so there is much less washing up than last year.
We have donations put into our red bucket every evening from those who can afford to. Some evenings this can be as little as £3 and some evenings it can be as much as £64. Those of you who have run projects will know what hard work it is applying for grants so you will share my joy at being offered funding without having to go through that process. The Masons have given us £2,500, the Mothers Union £200, RTC £2340, Pfizer £2,000 and Street Games £2,500. Earlier this year Sainsbury’s contacted us and we were offered a collection of money and donation of appropriate foods from their customers, 600 voluntary hours and marketing space. They have won an internal Stardust prize for the work they have done with us.
There should be a rule that at the start of every summer holiday every headteacher hands over the keys, codes and cards you need to open a modern school to a member of their local community. Any of the reasons quoted for not doing this such as H and S and insurance can all be dealt with. We no longer own our schools but we did pay for them originally. To keep those assets locked up is unacceptable.
By the end of this summer, we will have fed a lot of people good healthy tastier meals, relieved a lot of stress, introduced our guests to new fun games and ways to get more physically active, encouraged a lot of smiles and laughter and saved a lot of families a lot of money. I am collecting stories about how the money saved will be used, about how important it has been to have somewhere free and fun to go this summer, about what issues are the most difficult currently (drying washing features highly) and about where next?
Our Kitchen will continue to teach parents how to cook easy, fast, tastier, healthier meals their children like, they can afford and which use as much local food as possible. We will train and employ a small team who will enable us to do more of this work. A limited range of trustworthy, tasty, seasonal, affordable meals will be made and sold at affordable prices. Our Kitchen in your street will deliver healthier food on a regular round. We will continue to work with the Food Foundation and DEFRA passing on what we learn and developing Thanet’s food scene so that the right choices become easier. We will support diabetics and pre-diabetics and encourage them to support each other. We will develop more useful recipes and provide relevant nutrition information in helpful ways. We will continue and grow the work we do with the gleaners. This has resulted in 2 tons of spuds and 400 kg of fabulous cherries being freely distributed in Thanet.
Summer Kitchen will become a ” local franchise”. We will encourage more schools in Thanet to open their doors in the summer holidays and match them with local community groups who wish to look after those children in their area on free school meals.
The aim remains the same. We intend for Thanet to feed itself better and healthier.
We still need government to work with us on a local kitchen. It is vital we stay plugged into the government so we can continue to influence national progress and changes in how we are supplied with food so that we can continue the successful work we do in giving parents their voice. Our recent BBC live breakfast appearance, with recorded inserts filmed in a family’s home, has received nearly 9 million views and has put in front of the nation the harsh reality of too many children’s lives.
Joe Manclark, the head-teacher at Drapers Mills Primary Academy says that the work we do ‘transforms lives.’
Images in this article are © Caroline Dyal