It isn’t often you can have a good meal, get your haircut, listen to a man play a violin and see an elephant all in the same place but that’s just what was on offer at Drapers Mills school in Margate tonight (July 30).
It was all part of the launch for a community kitchen offering free meals, both eat in and takeaway, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6pm to 8pm up until August 31.
The scheme, thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, is being run by Our Kitchen on the Isle of Thanet with Drapers Mills school, Get Out Get Active (GOGA) Thanet, Fareshare, Asda, Windmill Allotments, Geoff Philpott’s farm, Your Leisure and county councillor Barry Lewis.
Our Kitchen on the Isle of Thanet boss Sharon Goodyer has a team of four professionals and a small army of volunteers helping out in the project which has been funded to the tune of £5,000 by Cllr Lewis and fellow councillor Karen Constantine.
Tonight some 40 people turned out to enjoy beef provencale or wraps, beetroot chocolate cake, carrot cake, Appleberry to go with yogurt and Kulfi -a sumptuous ice cream from the Middle East, strawberry ice cream and orange ice pops made from fresh oranges.
The aim is to get the community together to enjoy the meals, with those who can afford it making a donation, and to have fun in a variety of activities.
Sharon said: “What we have done is separated money from food, taken it out of the equation so people can enjoy tasty, healthy meals as a community and enjoy the entertainment and activities together.
“It is about being made to feel welcome and it is about having something lovely for Thanet.”
Drapers Mills school have given the use of their site for free, Fareshare , ASDA , Geoff Philpott’s farm and the Windmill allotments are providing some of the ingredients. Your Leisure has designed banners and flyers and the Get Out Get Active team, led by Sarah Johnson, are laying on family rounders as well as crafty and arty things to do.
A hairdresser is offering cuts and there is also music and games.
The restaurant and take away are free although the hope is that people who can afford it will put in a donation.
Cllr Lewis said: “I am delighted, it is a dream come true.When I was elected I promised I would give back to the community and this is a part of doing that.”
The team will also be delivering takeaway meals in bulk to St Christopher’s Church in Newington.
One mum-of-three who visited tonight was Claire Turner (pictured above). She said: “The food is really good, it’s good that it is about the community.”
The community kitchen is an alcohol and drugs free area.
Sharon has also revealed future plans for making Our Kitchen on the Isle of Thanet even more accessible.
The kitchen, based at the former Cliffsend Village Stores, offers meals ranging from 70p, £1.40 and chef’s specials at around £4. It also holds pop up sessions across Thanet.
All meals are low in salt, sugar and saturated fats, concentrating on using local veg and fruit.
Labelling on the reusable pots is limited to reduce the amount of environmental waste but each is accompanied by a leaflet with the recipe and supplier details.
The business was opened by Sharon, a former head teacher and businesswoman, last year when she came out of retirement in a bid to get the isle eating well.
She said: “In September we will be looking to open up eight shops in high streets and housing estates across Thanet to make it easier for people to get our food.”
She has also been in discussions with Oena Windibank, chief officer for local care for NHS Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), about opening up the kitchen as part of planned isle health hubs.
She said: “It is about delivering healthy, tasty, affordable food and stopping the food industry offloading debt on to the NHS. If we can do good food at affordable prices then so should they.”
To book for the community meals at Drapers Mills, or find out more, call 01843 223989, visit the Our Kitchen on the Isle of Thanet facebook page here or just turn up on the night.
Photos Dave Stillman