“Food really is the biggest thing that can change someone’s life in terms of physical health, mental health, everything.”

Kate,  Loveworks (Reigate)

Food is a wonderful thing. It unites us, nourishes us and is the foundation of many a family, friendship and as we know, festival! For many, though, it can also be a source of daily anxiety and stress. To play our part and do our bit to help alleviate food poverty especially in the current climate, this year we will be launching a donate-a-dish scheme across the tour. At every restaurant, punters will be able to ‘donate a dish’ to their order. Rather than acting as a physical meal, it will simply act as a way to donate to the local food bank in their area. Food is at the heart of the Pub in the Park festival and this initiative is a natural extension of what we do. Particularly in the wake of the cost-of-living crisis, we are proud to support local food charities which help those who face food poverty every day. 


We will be donating to one charity in every town including: The Lewisham Trussell Trust (Dulwich), St Albans & District food bank (St Albans), Loveworks (Reigate), Meals from Marlow (Marlow), Brighton & Hove food Partnership (Brighton), Richmond Foodbank - Vineyard Community (Chiswick), Wimbledon Foodbank (Wimbledon), Nourish Community Food Bank (Tunbridge Wells), Bath Food Bank (Bath) and Warwick District Foodbank (Leamington Spa). Please head to their websites to find out more about the work they do and the best way to support them. 


This is a cause particularly close to our hearts. We are proud to have worked alongside the captain of our ship Tom Kerridge and Andy Agar to originally launch Meals from Marlow in April 2020, which provided meals for key workers in the pandemic. It has since expanded to include people in need around the area. To date we have raised £370,000 and provided in excess of 190,000 meals in Marlow. We plan to continue our Meals for Marlow work and are really looking forward to building on it by supporting food charities across the tour. 


Tom Kerridge, has said how important it is to “support families who are struggling to put food on the table. And that the donate-a-dish scheme will be “an essential part of the festival this year and beyond.” Not only will we donate funds this year, but as Miranda Martin, our MD explained “we will continue to use our network to raise awareness” of the incredible work each charity does. 


“If you're giving families who have been brought up not knowing how to cook and talking to them about food, it starts them having conversations about food at home.”


I had the chance to speak with Kate, managing director of Loveworks in Reigate to hear a bit more about the work they do and the impact it has on people’s lives. Loveworks is a particularly unique kind of foodbank, as well as offering emergency food packages, they also have an allotment and run cookery courses in partnership with ‘Bags of Taste’. As Kate explained, food banks are “a symptom” of a larger issue, whether that’s debt, losing a job, family illness, increasing education around food, so they aim to alleviate and educate, with the opportunity to grow fresh produce, recipes and advice on where to buy cheap produce, part and parcel of the charity’s work. 


Kate recalled one foodbank user “who did a cookery course, learnt how to bake a cake, and cook meals”, and “that [it] gave her the confidence to go out and get a job.” Having the power to look after yourself and cook nutritional, delicious meals can have a huge impact on your self esteem. It can be particularly important amongst families. Loveworks runs the cookery course in conjunction with Bags of Taste simply over Whatsapp. Packages are delivered to someone’s door, and over a 2 week period they’ll be taught how to cook various meals, making use of tinned goods and fresh fruit and vegetables in a cost efficient way. The hope is that “if you're giving families who have been brought up not knowing how to cook and talking to them about food, it starts them having conversations about food at home”. Loveworks also offer financial aid to those struggling to pay gas and electricity bills too. As Kate quite rightly said, "what's the point in doing a cookery course if you can't afford to turn on the oven?". 

“The biggest change since the pandemic and what is frightening now is most of the people we work with are working but still need to use a foodbank.”


Andy, the Managing Director of the Leamington Spa/ Warwick food bank shed some light on the impact of the pandemic, and the changing nature of the demographic since that difficult period. Prior to Covid, a lot of people utilising the foodbank worked part time, or were on some form of government subsidy. Over the last couple of years they’ve seen an increasing number of families, and, what is most frightening, people who are in work; teachers, nurses and those who have been hit by the cost of living crisis and are struggling to repay their mortgages. 


For those reading this looking to support the food banks in their local town, head to their websites and look for any provision lists which list key items they're in need of, or simply donate financial aid to allow the foodbank to have the freedom to buy what is most needed. A small word to the wise, is to think practically! Over Easter Loveworks were inundated with Easter eggs, which although a lovely gesture, didn't go very far in providing a nutritious meal, so make sure to fulfil the necessities first. The stories I heard from Andy and Kate were truly humbling. And we know that donate-a-dish is only the beginning of Pub in the Park's story to help support the food charities in every town across the tour, and we hope our audiences will join us in this effort.

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