Featured previously on Brixton Blog, Brixton People’s Kitchen is back with an innovative plan bringing together two popular local pastimes – cycling and food. Bobbie Lakhera spoke to founders Fan Sissoko and Camilla Marshall, to find out how their efforts to cut food waste in Brixton are about to go mobile.
The Brixton People’s Kitchen produces tasty meals from food surplus donated by local outlets and markets. Those in the know have been attending their monthly events at Myatt’s Fields Park since they started in December 2011.
Now, the team plan to build their own mobile kitchen. They want to take their food fixtures on the road, helping more people come together to reduce food waste while cooking up a storm.
The idea came from a volunteer who had seen a mobile kitchen elsewhere and suggested that they could build the same. The plan is to hold one mobile event a month at each of four different sites across Lambeth. Camilla says: “So many different people come to the events, a lot already interested in food waste and cooking. We hope the mobile kitchen will increase inclusivity. We want to engage with people who do not know we exist or wouldn’t look us up.”
The team submitted the idea for the Nesta Waste Reduction Challenge. From an original shortlist of 20 projects, they have made it to the final six. Each project receives £10,000 to test their idea over a six months period and, at the end, the idea that demonstrates the most success will be awarded a £50,000 prize.
Camilla explains: “It’s really exciting but we are up against some big projects that are reducing waste by tonnes rather than our few kilograms! Our plan, however, is about people sharing skills and knowledge. We want to use the kitchen as a starting point to create events around it. Each site we plan to go to is unique, and we want the events to feel special because they are created by the people who live there.
“At the end of the summer, we will speak to people about how they have found the experience and if they want to carry on with food waste reduction projects. That’s what we want to use the funding for – to support people to run their own schemes.”
To get started the team must build the mobile kitchen and they are keen for people to get involved, says Fan: “For the last month we have been looking at bicycles! Cargo bikes, ice cream bikes, trying to see what works. We had a prototyping session and have two bikes we want to adapt. They need fixing, but that’s part of the fun. London Green Cycles, who specialise in cargo bikes, are helping us out with mechanics and parts. They already design for market traders so are full of good advice! We have also had support from Cycooldelic and Union Cycle Works.
“We have two artists, GartenStudio, coming over from Berlin. They have built kitchen carts before and we emailed them for information. Amazingly, they responded saying they would love to come and help. They will be joining us at the bike construction workshops from 23 to 27 April at the Remakery, which has offered us workspace and tools. People who would like to volunteer their time to help us build the bike during that week are welcome to get in touch.
“What’s excellent about being in Brixton is there are so many groups doing such different things here. If there is something you don’t know, it’s fantastic how many people are ready to offer their time and share their expertise, all for free.”
Camilla added: “We are also working in collaboration with the Lambeth Youth Offending Service, which was keen to find more creative projects to work with. They liked the idea of the design and cooking, teaching young people new skills and getting them to share their own ideas.”
A big celebration of the new mobile kitchens will be at Myatt’s Fields Park on Sunday 28 April. There will be live music and a film being shown, as well as the most important ingredient for a Brixton People’s Kitchen event – fantastic food. As usual, loyal suppliers from Brixton and Oval Farmers’ Markets, as well as Lays of Chelsea and Langridges at New Covent Garden Market will be donating food, alongside other regular contributors including Italo, Malinka, Tony’s Grocers, As Nature Intended and Trinity Stores.
At the event you can find out about volunteering with the team, perhaps becoming one of the dedicated helpers at the mobile sites. The role would include planning the menu, facilitating the cooking and helping people who are new to the event.