Covid-hit community kitchen reopens amid ‘heartrending’ rise in demand

Granville Community Kitchen volunteers.

Granville Community Kitchen volunteers. - Credit: Leslie Barson

Granville Community Kitchen has begun providing food for residents once again after an outbreak of Covid-19 forced it to close for a week.

The kitchen, in Carlton Vale, is run by volunteers and acts as a food hub for the South Kilburn area.

It reopened on Wednesday (January 6) and people can book a collection time to come in and receive a bag of food on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Volunteer drivers drop off food to those who cannot come in.

Co-founder Leslie Barson, who herself caught the virus, said: “We realised how we’re just as vulnerable as other people - or perhaps more, because we’re having to work through the pandemic."


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She continued: “We do try to keep social distance, we have low numbers. We have two teams so that if one goes down the other won’t get it...but we’re not immune. Everybody is at risk.” 

It is the first time the community kitchen, which opened in March, has been hit by the virus and some volunteers are still isolating.

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Neighbours stepped in to help some of the most vulnerable people but the closure meant 250 households did not get food aid. 

Leslie said: “Our numbers are going up and up. I get texts saying ‘I need food’ - really heartrending messages.” 

She said social services are “not working properly" and that the pressure on volunteer organisations is "just too much”.

“There’s a whole slew of people who are economically isolated because their jobs have gone, or there’s not enough work," she said. "A lot of people in South Kilburn are drivers, and nobody needs a lift anywhere because we’re all stuck in. So their work’s dried up. There are also people who are more ill because they can’t get into hospital and get their normal procedures.”

The kitchen has been providing meals for elderly or ill people who cannot cook, but Leslie said this is “unsustainable” in the long run.:

“Food aid is really just a bandage," she said. "It is an emergency provision.”

The kitchen also runs a veg box scheme for low income families, subsidised by "solidarity members" who pay a little bit more, and organisers are hoping for a grant to allow them to lower the price even further.

READ MORE: Community kitchen in Kilburn remains an important outlet for Brent and Westminster’s vulnerable residents

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