After we opened in 2014, we started to notice that when we offered the usual food parcels to our clients some of them were picking out certain items like pasta and rice and we wondered why.
In the year from April 2014 to March 2015, many of our clients (68% of adults and 32% of children) are in temporary accommodation – either staying in B&Bs or “sofa surfing” – so they don’t have anywhere to cook. Others are in fuel poverty and can’t afford gas or electricity for cooking. This means that those children aren’t able to get a hot meal and this is a growing problem.
Luckily the building we’re located in has a lot of space, so we decided to build a kitchen here that our clients can use for cooking their own meals. The first problem was how we could build it without any funding. That’s where Aiden came in. Aiden works as a restorer at the British Museum but in his own time he likes to build things – he had just finished a play area – and he came to us to ask if he could use some of our space for his building projects. As we’re a charity we can’t charge rent for the space, but Aiden offered to help us build a kitchen instead.
The next problem was how to get the materials without the funding to buy them. Aiden and Pastor Obi together searched the local area for building projects that might be happy to donate any surplus materials. They also came up with solutions like converting tables into counter tops, and between them they got a long way on the building project. Sadly Aiden injured his back and was forced to stop before the kitchen was finished – which is where Gary came in. Gary was working with The Space but he had heard about our kitchen project and wanted to help. He brought his tools and fixed up all the electrical wiring and the extractor fans for us. We had a start up grant that we used to buy the appliances and Gary fitted them for us.
Two requirements were needed before the kitchen can be open: Fire Risk Assessment and Environmental Health approval. The Fire Risk Assessment has been done but the Environmental Health was more difficult. Because the kitchen is for our clients to use and we won’t be handling the food ourselves, it was difficult to categorize – nobody has done this before. However, if we could provide plans, the Environmental Health Officer agreed to have a look at what could be done.
We asked all our volunteers if they knew anyone who could help us and Michael said he had done some accountancy work with a firm of architects in the city so the next thing we knew, Shane arrived, spent 5 hours taking measurements and two weeks ago a full set of professional plans and elevations of our kitchen arrived, ready to be sent to the Environmental Health Officer.
After overcoming these problems we’re very hopeful that the kitchen will soon be open for our clients to get cooking.