North Kensington Community Kitchen, is located at Notting Hill Community Church on Kensington Park Road, W11. It was born at the beginning of lockdown at a local church kitchen to facilitate this great emergency response need.
Founded and run by Melanie, she explains, "Having researched local food banks and meeting with the local council, RBKC. It was clear that although Age UK would be helping over 65's in need with food packages, there was nothing in place beyond the usual food banks. Who was expected to deal with this huge surge of need? Homeless charities had to close their doors, with no alternative in place."
Responding to the Emergency
Faced with the enormity of COVID-19 and the impact on these particular children and families during lockdown, NKCK stepped up. "No-one else was going to help, so we did it ourselves. We currently deliver 850-900 meals per week, the vast majority to vulnerable children, also very vulnerable local residents and we have taken on the cooking for two local homeless charities."
Huge thanks to everyone who has helped and continues to:
- Our local community support partners are: Notting Hill Community Church, LWRA - Lancaster West Residents Association, Bay20, North Kensington Law Centre, TBAP Schools, Westway Trust amongst others.
- City Harvest have been our greatest supporter, without them we couldn't cook nutritious meals for kids. They help us make a valuable difference everyday.
- Jamie Oliver's team has been wonderful, donating thousands of containers, pasta and sun dried tomatoes.
- One of our first volunteers was Danny McCubbin. He worked with Jamie for 17 years and helped tremendously with setting up our wonderful kitchen.
- Our rotating chefs are fantastic. Many from Jamie Oliver, and others from fantastic restaurants who have been furloughed. They have understood the huge need and have been instrumental to our delivery of super tasty meals.
- We have approx 40 volunteers, a kitchen manager, kitchen chef, rotating guest chefs, food servers, packagers, rota management and a coterie of drivers.
"One of our recipients is a heavily pregnant, single young woman, with an underlying health condition. She has been unable to leave her 3rd floor flat for sometime and has no support network. We have been her lifeline."
Children with no Access to Food
NKCK has delivered 7,000 meals to vulnerable children since the beginning of lockdown. North Kensington Community Kitchen is working closely with TBAP - Tri-Borough Alternative Provision (in education). They run a cohort of schools and are responsible for educating and turning around the lives of our most vulnerable children. Those who have been excluded from school or need more intensive support given their needs / social or family issues. Many of these children are very bright but have not had the start in life or the support to enable them to thrive.
"We started North Kensington Community Kitchen mainly for them. We are aware that many children from our particular social spectrum are unable to gain access to a cooked meal when not in a school setting. This meal is vital for them. Without it they don't receive the nourishment to grow or achieve."
Grenfell - Building Trust in the Community
There has been a great effort by the community to recover and rebuild trust with RBKC since the Grenfell Tower fire. There is a long way to go - but the journey has started. "We need council and government funds in order to achieve our goals and raise families out of poverty. We wish to enable our residents to build their own lives and livelihood, to give their children a better life than their parents have had. We are striving to achieve this through access to education and ability. We also need to engage with authorities in order that they begin to understand the mechanisms that keep poverty alive - and how we may reverse these." Melanie.
We are passionate about our beloved community. It is not necessarily an easy one to live in, given the immense trauma of Grenfell amid social issues - but it is fascinating, highly creative in the arts and music, and richly diverse in culture.
Poverty In Kensington
There are many cultures and languages spoken in this small area of London, many refugees and those living in poverty alongside extreme wealth. It makes for a diverse, interesting mix. Unfortunately, North Kensington has been asset-stripped for years, and the council has funnelled-in particular 'categories' of disadvantaged people. There is a bizarre dichotomy between the extreme asset-rich and extreme poverty.
The local community, many born and bred in North Kensington with ancestry that spans the world, has been very responsive to local developments and are active in campaigning for their receding rights. 'Regeneration' has been a dirty word in North Kensington for a long time. It has been received as a type of social cleansing, tearing previously settled and happy communities apart.
The Westway has been an issue that has polluted the air for 50 years - this is one thing that has actually been improved since lockdown.
"I got involved through my friend, Danny McCubbin The best bit is when you see the kids eating the food we make. City Harvest and North Kensington Community Kitchen are both caring, wonderful people and generous organisations. I’m proud to be part of it."
Andrea, Development Chef at Jamie Oliver LTD
Melanie comments: 'I am immensely proud of how this has come together. We have many volunteers who wouldn't normally volunteer as they are in professional roles without much time. We also have students or local young adults who have attained degrees - but haven't found jobs. What we can do is offer these young adults vital life training at North Kensington Community Kitchen - and working with RBKC, offer them courses that enable them to access the job market more readily. This process has already begun."
Melanie - Founder of North Kensington Community Kitchen
Why She Loves City Harvest
"City Harvest has been a fantastic supporter of our project. They have gone out of their way to ensure that we have supplies, as they do with all of their clients. Not only have they had to be on the frontline with us to ensure people have basic nutrition, they have had to deal with a huge number of 'new' projects such as ours and the steep learning curve we have each had to navigate. We couldn't do this without them. We wouldn't want to. We owe them a great debt of gratitude. It is reassuring to know that they are nearby. Although it felt like it at the very beginning - we are not alone.
Thank you for being there City Harvest. Thank you for your unstinting encouragement. You mean the world to us and our community."