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Church Pilots Community Food Project 

A church has piloted a community café that combines growing fresh produce, preparing great food and learning how to eat well on a budget.

Nosh is a pop-up café that has been opening between 12 and 2pm each Wednesday throughout May at Memorial Community Church in Plaistow, East London.
Church pilots community food p
It has been serving food grown in the Nosh garden, and is all part of a wider community food project.
The idea is that people who volunteer in the garden or café get to eat for free, but the food is so good that people who live or work in the area come along too, providing income to buy the ingredients for the next week.

‘Nosh is a community food project that aims to get people involved in growing, preparing and eating good, inexpensive, healthy food and learning together how we can eat well on a budget,’ explained church development manager Philippa King.

It came about after the church looked into setting up a foodbank. However, with a good one already operating in Newham, and knowing many people with long-term food needs (foodbanks normally provide food for a short period to cover an emergency, but try to avoid a longer dependency), it started to think of something slightly different. A café had been mooted several times as the church development project.

‘We began to look at how we could address the issue of long-term food poverty, and thought of this,’ added Philippa. ‘If we could grow something together, volunteer together and make it good enough to attract others, it was worth a look.’

There is heritage, too: the church used to serve weekly lunches when the area began to receive lots of refugees. This was called Nosh, and was set up by Elsie Lewis, who died in 2011. Gifts in her memory have been used to pay for a trained chef.

As well as volunteers learning food preparation skills as they work alongside the chef, weekly recipes are provided. This Wednesday there was a free cooking workshop at 4 pm in the kitchen. A weekly gardening club is also planned.

Nosh at the moment is a six-week pilot project. If it is successful, it could become a regular feature of the building once the next phase of repairs and restoration is complete. ‘We’ll have to evaluate costs to see if we can do it long-term once our building project has completed, but we’ve been encouraged so far,’ said Philippa. ‘Last week we had 55 people and sold every last scrap of food in the kitchen.’
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