Eating Better

Coexist Community Kitchen: Building community through food

By Sophie Jackson

In the latest in our series about community cooking projects on this blog, Bristol Food Network volunteer Sophie Jackson hears from Ari Cantwell, Co-Founder of Coexist Community Kitchen to discover how anyone in the city can get involved with their work.

Ari Cantwell, Co-Founder of Coexist Community Kitchen, explains:

“Food and customs of course differ, but that core coming together of people to share time with each other is fundamental to how we connect as humans. But all too often, people are forced into poverty and food stops being about health and enjoyment and instead becomes fuel for survival. For others, the relationship with food is lost because they are working long hours and become time-poor, relying on convenience over connection. But it’s that connection that is so powerful. Spending quality time together, trying something new, sharing your own knowledge, overcoming self-doubt. It’s simple but effective, and it’s what makes our work so incredibly rewarding.”

Coexist Community Kitchen (CCK) aims to create a safe space where people can heal, grow, and connect with each other and themselves. Their work focuses on supporting those facing multiple challenges, including mental health issues, domestic abuse, risk of trafficking, substance recovery, and seeking refuge from conflict. CCK welcomes everyone into their space as a place of respite, healing, and growth.

Coexist Community Kitchen, based in Easton, started as a community kitchen in Hamilton House — a social enterprise for creatives and charities — in 2012. Through the simple idea of bringing people together through food, CCK grew until their eviction from Hamilton House in the winter of 2018. Needing a new place to continue their work, they settled in Easton, renovating an old office space into a fully functional kitchen and home. When they were ready to open, COVID-19 hit, derailing their initial outreach plans. However, the team quickly pivoted, turning their new space into an emergency kitchen to support the community. This led to the start of CCK’s community meals project, which now produces 250 meals every week in partnership with FareShare South West.

A space for connection

Over the years, CCK has developed numerous projects to support people through food. Their core activities include outreach cooking lessons, social prescribing with local GPs, food pop-ups, public cooking classes, catering, and support for local growers. Their mission is to connect people through food in every way possible. Becky from CCK shared that the team is always brainstorming new ideas to network, grow, and connect with the community!

The demand for CCK’s services has been steadily increasing, showing no sign of slowing down as the cost of living rises and the rates of food insecurity climb. They have also seen more referrals for mental health support, particularly among asylum seekers placed in hotels without kitchen access or community connections. Creating connections and supporting those around us has become more imperative than ever, in a society that is increasingly becoming individualistic.

A call for support!

From attending a cookery class to grabbing your next lunch from their guest-chef Wednesday pop-ups, engagement is the best way to support the wonderful work that the Co-Exist Community Kitchen is doing. Don’t miss their upcoming food party on 19 July – tickets and more information can be found on their website

CCK is also developing a second kitchen dedicated for use by their catering team, who provide food for a range of events and channel the profit from these, directly back into CCK’s activities as a charity – a crucial part of how CCK self-funds their work. With their current kitchen in constant use, they often have to turn down catering requests. Their goal is to raise £20,000 to equip this new kitchen fully. Upon completion of this new kitchen, the team will provide job opportunities to the local community and further expand their outreach.

If you would like to learn more about supporting this new kitchen or can contribute quality second-hand equipment or monetary donations, please reach out to CCK via their website.

Enabling connection in your community

CCK, continue to show us how powerful, and pivotal community (and food!) can be. I would encourage you over this next month – of hopefully sunshine – to think about the communities you find yourself in, and how you can enable deeper connections within these groups, or develop new relationships – whether through food or other social activities. Become inspired by Coexist Community Kitchen, and explore what community connection might look like for you!

Read Sophie’s story about Migrateful, a community cooking project that goes beyond simply sharing recipes, and find out how you can support this inspiring initiative while expanding your own horizons. Read Sophie Jackson’s first story on this blog, showcasing community cooking projects across Bristol on the wonderful charity Square Food Foundation.

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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