We’ve been happily FoodCycling at St. Paul’s on Hills Road for the last four years, serving up a three course lunch on Saturdays to up to 40 members of the local community – and long may that relationship continue!
After four years, however, we’ve been returning to the same questions: could we do more? Why don’t we set up a second meal? What’s stopping us from just doing it? Well, lots of things, really – not having enough volunteers, not having enough hub leaders, not having the right location. Recently, though, those reasons have been less and less relevant. For a start, we’ve really benefitted from the explosion of public interest in and awareness of food waste and food poverty. We’ve got more volunteers than ever before, and are getting better known around the city. Unfortunately, there’s also no escaping the sad truth that, contrary to many people’s perceptions, Cambridge (like the rest of the country) is becoming more and more unequal. There are more people here who don’t have access to good food – or the resources to buy it. Simply put, there is a growing demand for projects like FoodCycle – and we don’t see that stopping any time soon.
So we started asking ourselves a different question: can we afford not to do this? Surely this is the right time to set up a second meal? The answer was pretty clear. After all, if we can’t do it now, while the issue is so clearly on people’s radar, then we never will.
We started looking at which areas of the city we could go to, and possible venues. One thing we had come to realise over the past few years, was that we get very few families and young children at our Saturday lunches. We don’t know why, but there it is. So, we started looking at other areas and realised we had two options – Kings Hedges and Abbey. Both areas have pockets of the community where people are struggling to feed their kids, and if they weren’t coming to us it made sense to go to them. Last summer we had camped out at Barnwell Baptist Church on Howard Road for a few weeks and they were very keen to work with us to make this happen. Stuart Wood, their minister and also chair of Abbey People, has been a great support right from the outset and, after a couple of false starts, we began cooking a regular Wednesday evening meal there earlier this year.
At the moment, this is on the first and third Wednesday of each month (we are still hoping to alternate with a venue in Kings Hedges). Dinner is at 6.30 to fit in with the end of local parents’ work day and the kids’ bedtime – but people are welcome to drop by from 6 for a cuppa and a chat. We had 28 people sitting down to our first meal in March, and best of all? The hall at Barnwell on that first evening was filled with laughter from a group of local kids devouring freshly baked banana cake, fruit salad, and salted caramel ice cream kindly donated by Jack’s Gelato. It was a long time coming, this second meal – but boy was it worth it!