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Bristol community food heroes: Charlie, Philip, Rolf and Maddie

In our latest blog post, Bristol Food Network volunteer Isobel Cox interviews some of the amazing volunteers, chefs and community workers who are providing the good food response to the coronavirus crisis. Meet Charlie, Philip, Rolf and Maddie.

Charlie and Philip James from Stokes Croft Food Project

The Stokes Croft Food Project is a collaboration between local businesses, charities and campaigners. The Stokes Croft Food Project tackles hunger and food poverty in Stokes Croft by providing nutritious food to those most in need in our community. Stokes Croft Food Project believes that food poverty is an unacceptable reality in our wealthy society. Brothers Charlie and Philip James are chefs at Jamaica Street Stores and the founders of Stokes Croft Food Project.

“Phil and I made a quick decision to team up with PRSC to address the growing need for hot sustaining meals in our local community. The need for this service in our area became obvious really quickly and wasn’t an issue we wanted to ignore. I don’t think anybody should be left behind in this situation. Although sad and humbling at times it feels great to be able to use our skills and resources for such an important cause and the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the simplest of ingredients to create dishes that taste great, are budget conscious and are nutritious and filling, is a welcome break from the norm.”

Rolf Hudson from National Food Service

The National Food Service is a new public service, built by and for the communities that it serves. The campaign seeks to reach new standards of social equality through building on the initiatives that exist in our communities, evolving, scaling and adding to them to build a new National Food Service. Their aim is to eliminate food insecurity and tackle the interconnected issues of social isolation and food waste. The network first started in 2018 in the face of a climate emergency declaration and rising food bank usage, despite modern farming methods providing an abundance.

“When this first kicked off I think we were all a bit freaked out, weren’t we? So I immediately checked if all my friends and family were okay, which they were. I had a lot of time on my hands – I got furloughed pretty much straight away – and I’ve always wanted to do voluntary work, but my job hasn’t really allowed it. There were lots of things going on locally: neighbourhood Whatsapp groups, the NHS volunteers and Can Do Bristol, but by the time I was furloughed the NHS volunteers were fully subscribed – 750,000 people, which is amazing – and Can Do Bristol was pretty full as well.

“In the area I live in we had so many Whatsapp groups it was going a bit crazy, so I started looking a bit further afield and that’s when I found the National Food Service. Pete, who is one of the directors, rang me back the same day, they were literally just getting going themselves so it was really good timing. There are now two community kitchens in Bristol so I transfer things between the two, and I deliver food boxes to vulnerable people across the city and to trusts like Family Action. We’ve also been getting a lot of hot meals from the Thali Cafe in Easton so I’ve been delivering those to community centres.

“I’ve been amazed by how many volunteers there are, it’s quite staggering how many people are giving so much time. But I am also pretty depressed by how many people need these charities…There’s people who daren’t even come to the front door, they’ll ask you to leave it and walk away because they’re so scared. There’s more people in that situation than I’d ever have thought. I’m trying to help as much as I can while I can.”

Maddie Crombie from The Gallimaufry (Bristol Food Union)

The Gallimaufry is normally an independent restaurant, bar, live music venue and arts space in the heart of Gloucester Rd, Bristol but they have been supporting Bristol Food Union throughout the pandemic. Bristol Food Union is an informal collective of restaurants, food businesses and community organisations that have come together across sectors to ensure that the city of Bristol stays fed during the COVID-19 crisis. This unique collaboration brings together the city’s best independent restaurants, with local farmers, food retailers and community food infrastructure, to support Bristol City Council’s emergency food provision. They are supporting Caring in Bristol to feed 500 homeless citizens each day and providing meals for the vulnerable in the Chew Valley area. They are delivering weekly food provisions to 100 vulnerable adults who have recently left the foster-care system, and they are providing a hot-meal daily to workers across the frontline including social care and emergency services.

“The team have been so proud to help with the work being done by the Bristol Food Union. We have been producing fresh, nutritious meals for NHS staff and community projects. It has been our hope that these meals might make people’s day’s a bit brighter.

I have been inspired and overwhelmed by the generosity and determination I have seen from the Bristol hospitality community. From those raising funds and organising projects like this, making sure resources get to where they’re most needed. To the local suppliers who have donated produce and all the volunteers giving their time and energy to help during this time.”

This is the second blog post in our series highlighting some of the community food heroes who have been working hard to provide Bristol’s good food response to the coronavirus crisis. Meet Hibo Mahamoud from Talo, Chefs Luke and Kristjan from Heart of BS13 and Pensri Sakornphan from Wat Phra Sri Sanphet.

Read a blog post by Louise Delmege from the National Food Service identifying the necessity for a local social eating space where communities can cook and eat together on this blog in November 2019. For more information or to get involved with the Stokes Croft Food Project, read more on the Bristol Going for Gold blog.

You can also read more on this blog about how restaurants such as Box-E have been getting food to some of Bristol’s most vulnerable people during the COVID-19 crisis through the Bristol Food Union and about the ‘Cheers Drive’ campaign run by Caring in Bristol.

Visit Bristol Food Network for more information and resources on Bristol’s good food response to the pandemic.