“We could see what was needed in our communities and now we can make it happen”
Lifelong friends bring people together through their love of growing and cooking food!
I think most of us would agree, that it takes courage, resilience and a strong social conscience to grow a social enterprise from the grass roots up. Most of us would also agree that supporting local small businesses and community groups is the best way of supporting our local economy. It’s a good job there are people willing to give it a go, despite the challenges.
Catherine Howell and Elizabeth (Liz) Homan, who have been friends for forty years, have rolled up their sleeves, wiped the soil from their hands, kicked off their shoes and thrown caution to the wind by starting their own Community Interest Company (CIC) Barefoot Kitchen earlier this year.
Liz and Catherine met when they were just four years old, starting St Edward’s primary school, Middlesbrough together and living just ten doors apart. They’ve been lifelong friends ever since and both followed food-based careers. Liz’s professional experience as a Chef and Catherine’s horticulture and community food growing knowledge, have come together to create a ‘plot to plate’ approach to projects centred around growing food, cooking and sharing initiatives.
The aim of Barefoot Kitchen is to empower communities and improve social resilience, while also making a contribution towards tackling climate change. ‘Barefoot’ describes the way they like to work – with minimal damaging impact.
Barefoot Kitchen CIC does the following amazing things:
- runs the ‘Kitchen Table’ surplus food stalls with Teesside University and the Northern School of Art
- works in central Middlesbrough, setting up and supporting the Alley Pals project to regenerate urban spaces
- at Preston Park runs family cooking workshops that make full use of the produce grown in the Walled Kitchen Gard
- works on MIMA’s Middlesbrough Settlement project to bring cooking and growing to communities using a mobile barrow
- teaches children at a youth project in North Ormesby all the skills they need to produce a new food product and bring it to market
- develops new growing spaces in areas of need in Stockton with Cultivate Tees
- develops and maintains growing spaces and supports family gardening and cooking groups at primary and secondary schools
- works with Middlesbrough Environment City to encourage more people to grow fruit and share it amongst their neighbours.
“Starting a community interest company has been a really steep learning curve” said Catherine, who still lives in Linthorpe. “Literally everything has been new so we’ve spent a lot of time brain picking for advice. People have been so helpful in sharing and we couldn’t have done without them.”
They are following a programme through the Lloyd’s Bank School for Social Entrepreneurs, and the business start-up courses at Enterprise Made Simple, which are free if you’re in the Teesside area. Though it’s hard work creating community gardens in a torrential downpour, Catherine thinks it has been worth it: “Waking up every morning, loving what you do, and knowing that you are making such a difference in people’s lives is a privilege. We wouldn’t swap it for the world”.More exciting work is planned for the coming year and includes the further roll out of the Kitchen Table and the development of more community gardens.
If you would like more information on Barefoot Kitchen or would like to volunteer for community projects please check out the Facebook page @BarefootKitchenCIC