Penwortham woman launches crisis schemes to help tackle food poverty in Preston
The Larder, a cafe and social enterprise in Lancaster Road, Preston, has been serving approximately 50 to 100 hot meals nearly every day for the past three weeks.
The aim is to help tackle food poverty, which director Kay Johnson expects will surge over the coming weeks.
The 55-year-old, who founded The Larder in 2015, has also launched a Kids in the Kitchen programme, which provides struggling families with the resources to make nutritious dishes.
She said: "There's a fear about not getting enough food among many people. Prices are definitely going up and it's not going to settle back down for a while."
Kay, who is originally from Much Hoole, added: "People have told us that the hot meals give them something to enjoy without the stress, as many can't or don't have the facilities to cook. So, when they receive food parcels from a food bank, they don't always know what to do with them."
Kids in the Kitchen was launched last Monday and will run for two weeks. It currently supports 36 families who would be eligible for free school meals.
The scheme offers three days' worth of simple recipes and ingredients to help teach children the basics of healthy cooking.
"It's difficult for some families to find the extra money for food during the holidays," said Kay.
"It's wonderful, as we receive photos on our Facebook page every day of families cooking together. It gives them something positive to focus."
The Larder normally runs a physical holiday hunger programme but in the face of an emergency, the team brainstormed new ways to reach vulnerable people and took inspiration from the internet.
In just one week, the initiative was put together, following crisis talks with other organisations. If it takes off, Kay hopes to launch it again in the summer, when some families are hit particularly hard by food poverty.
So far, it seems it has resonated with the community, with more than 40 people offering to volunteer while others have donated food for cooking.
But despite Kay and her team working all hours, The Larder is on tenterhooks, as it is running low on funds.
That is why Kay has set up a Crowdfunder to raise £25,000 to buy ingredients and keep the scheme running during the pandemic.
The director, who has 20 years of experience in tackling food poverty, says she has so far been moved by the community's support.
She added: "I just want to say how proud I am of my team. They have transitioned from a normal cafe to an emergency support system in just a few days.
"It's really quite incredible.
"I'm also humbled by the support from other organisations, like Preston Minster, Age Concern, Community Gateway Association, and Preston City Council.
"It's also been an opportunity to see how generous the public is. I'm working every minute of the day but the kindness people have shown keeps me going."
To make a donation, please visit https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/cooking-for-our-community
And for more information about the scheme, search for The Larder on Facebook or see http://www.larder.org.uk/