Pilot in Byrne’s West Derby constituency will be followed by roll-out across Liverpool
Foodbank hero and MP of the Year Ian Byrne has joined forces with Liverpool FC legend Robbie Fowler to launch ‘Scouse Kitchen’, a community kitchen for hungry families in West Derby, Liverpool ahead of a city-wide rollout.
Byrne received the MP of the Year award for his work feeding hungry families through the ‘Fans Supporting Foodbanks‘ project he co-founded and his landmark ‘Right to Food’ campaign – and a generous donation from Fowler, a well-known socialist, has funded the pilot and will also support food pantries in other locations across the city. Community Kitchens are one of the five demands of the Right to Food project, so Byrne is showing he’s about action as well as ideas.
Scouse Kitchen is inspired by the wartime model of social eating and will take place between Tuesday 11 October and Thursday 13 October at St Celia’s Junior School in Tuebrook, West Derby, Liverpool, running from 5pm to 6.30pm.
The concept has been influenced by the research of Professor Bryce Evans at Liverpool Hope University, who believes communal dining could replace foodbanks in tackling food poverty in the UK. Evans said:
The Scouse Kitchen will use the principles of social eating we saw in Britain during the 20th century to trial an alternative way of tackling food poverty. Community kitchens were successful during wartime and the years after, and they operated in complete contrast to the foodbank model which has emerged in the last 15 years.
Foodbanks offer invaluable support to those in need of emergency handouts, but they provide basic food and there is a stigma around using them due to people sometimes being required to prove they are ‘poor enough’ to access them. Social eating takes a more holistic approach. It allows you to serve fresh, healthy food in a community setting which improves people’s physical and mental health whilst also combating fuel poverty at a time when many foodbank users are reporting that they are unable to use appliances to prepare or store food.
In late 2020, Ian Byrne also spoke to Liverpool professor Ian Sinha about the impact of hunger on children even at a cellular level:
Football legend Robbie Fowler threw his support behind the initiative, which he and Byrne believe has the potential to change the way we tackle food poverty in this country. The former Premier League star made a large donation to grassroots community organisation Fans Supporting Foodbanks, to fund food pantries across Liverpool and to run the ‘Scouse Kitchen’ trial.
The Scouse Kitchen pilot we are running this week in my West Derby constituency is a much-needed intervention for many families living here. I have mums, dads and carers in West Derby who cannot afford to put food on their family’s table, and I wanted to provide this opportunity for them to sit down together as a family in a restaurant setting and eat a meal together in dignity, for free.
We know that food poverty causes endless problems for children, affecting their educational attainment and life chances and leading to poor health, reduced life expectancy, malnutrition and obesity.
Food poverty also has a huge impact on human dignity and social cohesion in our polarised nation of food banks next to investment banks. Too many of our people experience despair and humiliation every day and my aim with this project is to provide a safe space in which West Derby families can eat together in dignity. Social eating, such as we are trialling in the Scouse Kitchen, is an important step forward in how communities respond to hunger. It has none of the stigma too often associated with foodbanks and gives families an opportunity to eat together around a table. Dignity is key and we believe this model of social eating will provide that. Food pantries are also considered to offer a more dignified response to hunger than foodbanks, and we now operate several such pantries across Liverpool.
“In terms of my longer-term goal of ending the food poverty, I am leading Right To Food campaign in Parliament which aims to see an end to hunger in the UK. One of our five key demands is to introduce Community Kitchens across the country, and I see our Scouse Kitchen as the first step in achieving that.
The Scouse Kitchen trial is designed to be a healthier, more sustainable, and less demeaning alternative to the foodbank, where people can sit, eat, talk and ‘break bread’ together. Fowler said:
I am delighted to be able to support the fantastic work of Ian Byrne MP and Fans Supporting Foodbanks in this way. The Community Kitchen idea is inspiring, and I am proud to be part of it. Too many families in Liverpool and across the UK are really struggling to put food on the table and that is completely unacceptable in this day and age. Food pantries and Community Kitchens provide dignity as well as food to those who are struggling, and I am humbled to be able to help.
Dave Kelly, Chair and co-founder of Fans Supporting Foodbanks, said that the aim is to roll out the concept nationally as well as across Liverpool:
Massive thanks to Robbie Fowler from all at Fans Supporting Foodbanks for this very generous donation. We hope that the piloting of a community kitchen here in Liverpool can serve as a template going forward for a national rollout across the Fans Supporting Foodbanks network.
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