Heart of the community

Lorraine sieving pasta

Mildmay Community Centre provides all sorts of services and activities for local people: from arts and crafts to community gardening. Each week, they also run a food hub, where those in need can collect a parcel of food, and a sit-down community meal – provision that unfortunately, due to Covid and the cost-of-living crisis, is needed now more than ever. Lorraine at the centre tells us more

“This gentleman here, Peter, is homeless,” says Lorraine, who looks after the food hub and community kitchen at Mildmay Community Centre, gesturing to a man busy unpacking fresh produce and putting it into crates, ready for the day’s food hub. “He volunteers here every week and he accesses a food parcel, too. He’s a lovely soul.”

This give and take attitude is a feature of the centre – everyone does what they can to help each other. Indeed, many of the people who regularly volunteer at the centre first came to the food hub. “It just snowballed from there. I’ve now got the most amazing team of volunteers.”

Sadly, it’s been a particularly busy time for Mildmay food hub. “I turned it into a co-op the April before last because we were running out of money,” Lorraine explains. “We lost funding when we came out of Covid – though we didn’t really come out of Covid at all. Islington Council gave us a little lump of money, so I was able to go out and buy products like hygiene products, nappies – the things we need most and just don’t have enough money for. That’s why I turned it into a co-op, so we had some money coming in.” Guests are asked to contribute £1 for a food parcel, which can be picked up every Friday – though those who really can’t afford that are exempt.

Most of the food is donated from City Harvest, Edible London and Felix Trust. Any surplus is used at a community cook up every Thursday, when volunteers and guests come together to cook a hot meal and sit down to eat together. “We cook for around 30 to 35 people. We do lots of different meals: lasagnes, soups, we’ve made spaghetti bolognese, roasted chicken and vegetables – all sorts. One of our ladies is Turkish so she makes bourek.” Anybody can turn up, put what they can in the pot and have a hot, homemade meal. “There’s no profit made,” says Lorraine. “But it’s not just about the food – it’s about sitting round a table and having a chat. A bit of community spirit.”

Food aid, in any form, is not a solution to poverty. But places like Mildmay Community Centre and its food hub provide a vital lifeline for people in the devastating situation of being unable to afford enough food. And they do so with a smile on their faces, a can-do attitude, and with open arms.

Visit the Mildmay Community Centre website to find out more about volunteering, events and for information on accessing food if you need it.

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