Food Justice

Coexist Community Kitchen: “Since the emergency food provision began in March last year, we have created over 20,000 meals”

By Joey Callender-Wood

Joey Callender-Wood

Food provision coordinator at Coexist Community Kitchen, Joey Callender-Wood, writes the latest Bristol Bites Back Better blog. Joey describes the work Coexist have done to respond to the pandemic, providing emergency food for the community. Read about how to support the kitchen and Coexist’s vital work.

When the lockdown was announced in March last year, Coexist Community Kitchen’s (CCK) classes, community lunches and catering projects came to a halt.

It was clear that the sudden closure of community food spaces like Coexist, but also day centres, and schools (to name a few) would have a drastic effect on many peoples’ access to food. So, in response to the pandemic and some of its un-anticipated effects, Coexist swapped from its normal schedule of community classes, lunches and events, to emergency food provision for members of the community, producing up to 200 meals a day, four days a week.

Since March 2020, CCK has partnered with numerous organisations to deliver meals to recipients. These include the National Food Service, the Bristol Food Union (providing meals for front-line NHS workers) and Bread and Roses, a local bakery that baked nutritious sourdough to be delivered to the Women at One25. Since October, we have partnered with Caring in Bristol as part of their Cheers Drive campaign, producing meals for those who are vulnerably housed or rough sleeping in Bristol, as well as delivering meals to local families in Easton and clients of Second Step and One25 charities.

When Ari and Claudia started the emergency provision, it became apparent that volunteers would be needed to keep up with the demand and scale of the operation of producing up to 600 meals a week during the peak of the first lockdown. While the pandemic has thrown everyone’s lives into varying degrees of chaos, a silver lining of people having more time, has been a growing community of enthusiastic and supportive volunteers to help in the kitchen. Over 2,200 hours of volunteer time has been donated, and without it, the emergency food provision wouldn’t have been able to reach as many people as it has.

Working closely with Caring in Bristol, we have communicated regularly to understand the meals we need to create, to meet the preferences of those receiving them. Diversity of meals is key – rarely is the same meal cooked twice. While CCK is largely vegetarian, the variety of produce we receive from FareShare South West each week allows us to be creative in our cooking. At least two different types of meal are prepared each session to meet dietary requirements and personal tastes, although sometimes we end up with four or five different menus! Since the emergency food provision began in March last year, we have created over 20,000 meals.

Despite the difficulties of the past year, we have received so much support to help deliver the emergency food provision. Fresh produce is regularly donated from Elm Tree Farm, St Werburghs City Farm and Edible Futures, as well as local allotments. Donations from Bristol Sweetmart in Easton, bread from the East Bristol Bakery, organic turkey from Pipers Farm and chickens from Waitrose for over 250 Christmas roast dinners, are just some examples highlighting how the community has continued to rally together during a really tough time.

“It’s just that sensorial experience that is related around food and cooking, and the aspect of sharing food, the gesture of feeding others. It’s just really special and for me expresses love.” Claudia Poligioni, Coexist Community Kitchen.

With restrictions easing, services opening up, and more people being permanently housed, our partnership with Caring in Bristol is coming to an end in July. We plan to continue our emergency food provision for as long as it is needed, and are currently reaching out to organisations based in Bristol who we could partner with – if you work for, or know of any that would be suitable, please do get in touch. If you are interested in supporting CCK, we are currently looking for volunteers to support with the food provision, as well as supporting our Thursday supper club takeaway. The takeaway began at the same time as the food provision last year, as a response to all CCK catering events (and therefore income) being cancelled. Each week a guest chef creates a delicious menu with the help of volunteers, and all the proceeds go to supporting the kitchen and the work we do.

You can order a takeaway, find more information about us or make a donation on the Coexist website.

Read more on this blog about Cheers Drive: the UK’s first free food delivery service for the homeless, an initiative from homelessness charity Caring in Bristol.

Lucy Bearn, Head of Food and Logistics at FareShare South West, writes for this blog about how Fareshare are helping Bristol and South West businesses #BiteBackBetter when it comes to their surplus.

“I would love more and more people to be able to share their cuisines easily so that people can learn about other people’s cultures and stories through their food.” Ari Cantwell, Coexist Community Kitchen.

By setting the wheels in motion now, together we can transform the future of food in our city, building in resilience over the next decade. So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.

Join the conversation

So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.

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