Although the Larder was set up by Prestonian Kay Johnson seven years ago to do outreach work, the cafe was opened as as a hub in February 2019 with a mission to tackle food poverty and promote sustainable eating.
The Larder (which stands for Lancashire and Region Dietary Education Resource) has expanded its work across the local community ever since, despite the struggles of the pandemic, and is now a social enterprise café, shop, catering business, food hub, and a food academy.
Explaining why she set up the café, Kay, a 56 year old nutritionist said: "We needed a space for our activities and also the Larder has a set of principles that we work towards around sustainability and there isn't really anywhere in Preston where you can source fresh local ingredients, and we wanted to see if it could be done, so we set it up really as an experiment."
The café ran for a year before it had to close for two years during the pandemic, but throughout this time the Larder continued to work with support groups, host online classes and provided meals to the community.
"Just before Covid, we were starting to break even, so things were looking really great for us, we all put a lot of effort into making it work because it was something people in Preston weren't really familiar with, so it was really difficult when Covid hit, and I didn't think we were going to be able to to open again, but we've had so much support from the community in Preston from volunteers, and we've got a great team as well", Kay added.
The Larder's food academy works with the Preston Syrian Refugee Project, the Lancashire Refugee Integration Team and Edith Rigby House, and offers employability and food hygiene courses, as well as 'Kids in the Kitchen', which provides families with recipes, ingredients kits and online videos to cook together.
Kay says the Larder also "wants to support all the different groups in Preston that need a home", and that currently includes a sign language group, a long Covid group, a carer's group, a refugee women's group and a knitting group to tackle social isolation, whilst the café is also home to Art @ The Larder which runs a programme of exhibitions featuring Preston based artists.
Most recently, the Larder cafe have started a supper club which includes a full course meal showcasing the best produce from around the North West, as well as monthly 'sustainable Saturdays' offering a range of different activities, including the repair café, clothes swaps, forage walks and talks around sustainability.
Reflecting on reaching their third milestone, Kay added: “When we had all the windows smashed, we didn't think we were going to survive that, but it was the support of the community that kept us going, people coming forward to help us out in various ways, and I think we wouldn’t have survived without that support.
"I hope now that because of everything that we've been through, it's shown our resilience, and our resourcefulness, so I would hope that we'll be here in another three years, and our focus really is around trying to create a fairer food system, so although we're a café in Preston, what we're really tryinh to do is bring fresh local produce to everybody, regardless of whether they've got money or not."