Organic restaurant The Riverford Field Kitchen has turned its kitchen into a community resource to serve 250 meals a week from surplus organic produce for local people in need.
Buckfastleigh-based organic veg box company Riverford has been supplying surplus veg to their long-term charity partners FoodCycle and Food in Community for years, both of which have seen demand surge since lockdown as many people suffered loss of income, juggling work and childcare, or struggled with mental health.
When The Field Kitchen shut its doors for the latest lockdown, the kitchen team were determined to put their skills to good use. “Whilst providing veg donations is invaluable, we are also aware that many of the recipients don’t always have the cooking skills or kitchen equipment to make the most of the veg they receive,” said head chef Lewis Glanvill.
“We got in touch with local food banks to see if we could offer freshly made meals that just needed to be heated up. We still have veg coming in from our Field Kitchen garden and if we can’t use it for guests in the restaurant, then cooking it and providing nutritious meals for those who need it seems the obvious solution.”
So far, The Field Kitchen has supplied just under 250 fresh meals, delivering them to the local community via two local charities: Be Buckfastleigh – a community project which aims to address health, social and economic inequalities, and Food in Community, a Dartington-based food bank which delivers food boxes to individual households, charities and community groups across South Devon.
“There was certainly plenty of demand for the meals from families who rely on the food bank, and also from those who a just finding it a little bit more difficult at the moment,” said Pam Barrett, one of the directors of Be Buckfastleigh. “We have had wonderful feedback on the deliciousness of the food but also about how it has eased the financial burden of those only just managing, who have had their weekly working hours cut, or from parents who have appreciated the respite of one night off from cooking the family meal.”
Half of the food boxes that Food in Community deliver are to families who tend to use the service regularly, but the other half is now made up of people affected by Covid, including those who have lost work and will use the service short term whilst waiting for Universal Credit. The demand for the food boxes has increased three-fold since the first lockdown.
The Riverford Field Kitchen and its team of Riverford co-owners will continue to cook hot meals for local charities until it is able to reopen to its guests and are hoping to be able to find a way to still be able to support the community with fresh meals moving forward.