A project which started life as a community pantry, based in a parish hall, is expanding after it moved into its own premises.
Little Chefs, Big Chefs CIC was established to help people in the Bishop Auckland area make better food choices, by offering discounted food hampers and cookery courses.
It soon became so important to the community that it outgrew its base, in St Helen’s Parish Centre, and needed a home of its own, where it could increase its support services and activities.
The County Durham-based housing association has supported the project from its early days, with a £9,000 grant in March 2020 to set up a community pantry.
Volunteers took surplus produce, donated by supermarkets and the Auckland Project, to make up discounted food hampers and run cookery courses.
But within weeks, the Covid pandemic hit.
The team quickly adapted and, with the support of believe housing, began to offer emergency food provision to those most in need during the pandemic.
Eventually the eco-friendly community pantry and cookery lessons were able to resume, and they have gone from strength to strength.
Now believe housing, which manages 18,200 affordable homes across County Durham, has handed over the keys to the former Selby Close community room.
It also awarded £19,024 for work to refurbish the Hub, which has a community room, kitchen, toilets and storage space.
The extra space allows the LCBC Community Hub to host an Eco Market on Mondays and Thursdays, cookery workshops for all ages, social and gardening activities and it will launch new events based on local need.
Volunteers can offer access to laptops and a printer, signpost people to other useful groups and support services and help people build resilience.
“We’re proud to have supported this group on its journey, starting with that first grant to get the brilliant eco-friendly community pantry up and running, through the pandemic, and now in one of our buildings.
“LCBC has encouraged people to think about what they eat, diverted lots of food waste from landfill, supported the community and many believe housing customers.
“We want our grants to make a real difference in people’s lives and communities, so we’re pleased to have been able to support LCBC’s growth and look forward to seeing where the hard work and dedication of the team take it next.”Joanne Norman, Community Investment Coordinator at believe housing
“The continued support from believe housing has been invaluable.
“It is really important that local people have ownership of the project, that people know we’re here and tell us what they want and need.
“It is about building a strong community and resilience.”Joanne Iceton, Managing Director of Little Chefs, Big Chefs CIC