Green shoots in skills cafe
As the economic crisis bites, and the cost of food and energy spirals with inflation, many Methodist churches are trying to find ways to help serve the poor and vulnerable in their struggling communities.
One such is Bridgeway Hall Methodist Church in the Meadows estate in south Nottingham – an area named in the top three per cent in terms of deprivation in the 2011 census.
It faces significant challenges with poverty and unemployment, and local residents have been harder hit than most by those rising prices.
To make matters worse, many lack the basic know-how which would make their lives a little easier – the ability to shop on a budget, to grow and cook their own food, and to carry out small scale DIY and repair jobs which save money.
Bridgeway Hall recently set up a garden project to help local people learn how to plant and grow vegetables. With their £1,500 award money, as the Midlands winner, they’re planning to open a ‘skills café’ in an under-used space in the church.
Lay pioneer Dave Shaw said, ‘The idea is to share cooking, gardening, and repair skills between church members and community volunteers with the folk who attend our foodbank and Sunday Supper activities.
‘Through no fault of their own, a lot of local people don’t really appreciate the link between working in the garden and turning the produce into a meal – we want to help people see that link, and to help them to budget and shop better. We’ll also run basic cookery lessons using the fresh produce which gets supplied to the local foodbank but which is currently often at risk of going to waste as guests don’t know how to prepare and use it.’
Other skills – such as crafts, gardening, and carrying out simple repairs to small household items, rather than wasting money on replacements – will also be passed on.
‘The idea is just to do what we can to help ease the general burden on people,’ said Dave. ‘For instance, if we can show them that they can grow small amounts of food, even if they only have a patio or a balcony, that has to be a good thing. And, if they show real interest, then we can signpost them to the Meadows community garden, which is in a different part of the estate, where they can perhaps get involved on a bigger scale.
‘Additionally, the area has seen significant housing development recently, and we’re hopeful that the café will also help build community cohesion between newer and longstanding Meadows residents in an area where no similar facilities exist.
‘We were surprised to win but obviously very pleased – Methodist Insurance has supported us in many ways over the years with their advice and underwriting, and this is the icing on the cake!’
How the award was used
The award money has enabled the ‘skills café’ to open at the start of December 2022 as the Cosy Café. Sharing knitting and cooking skills, doing jigsaws together and growing plants to restart work on the community garden when the weather warms up.
The cooking skills included, putting together a lunch each week using supermarket surplus food and items from the foodbank that are likely to be put in food parcels.
Dave Shaw, Pioneer at Bridgeway Hall, commented, ‘The number of people attending the Cosy Café has increased week on week and we are now up to 25. This has enabled us to recruit two new volunteers and we are currently seeking further funding to enable us to continue providing our café throughout 2023 and beyond’.