Fitzjohns Food Bank has been running in it’s current form since 2017, located out of Christ Church on Prince Edwards Road in Lewes it is volunteer-led and supports households with food and other essential items like toiletries. Between April 2022 and June 2023 the number of households accessing support from Fitzjohns increased by 66%.
But it’s not just food people need support with, our communities are suffering from the legacies of Covid and the Cost-of-Living Crisis; services are struggling and community spaces are closing down contributing to the nation’s mental health crisis.
We know that experiencing poverty is incredibly isolating, with little budget left for your weekly shop after bills and rent there’s almost nothing left to enjoy the small pleasures in life like going out for a coffee with a friend to put the world to rights.
That’s why, increasingly, community food services like food banks and community supermarkets are offering not just groceries but spaces to socialise, to catch-up with neighbours, grab a bite to eat and a hot drink and opportunities to volunteer.
Fitzjohns Foodbank opened their Community Cafe in January 2023 with the help of a grant from Lewes District Council aimed at opening warm spaces during winter.
The idea was to provide a freshly cooked warm meal every Monday and a warm and welcome space to sit and have a natter. They invited in local community chefs such as Lucie from Feel Good Food, Alex from Kabak, and Robin the Community Chef to lead cookery sessions with volunteers making up to 70 portions of food every week.
The food is delicious and the variety of different tastes and flavours brought in by different chefs has been a real treat, with Middle Eastern tagines to Mexican delicacies, to curries and family favourites like sausage casserole and spaghetti bolognese and carbonara.
The Cafe runs on a Pay-As-You-Feel model which means small donations are welcomed, and the food can be eaten in or taken away and had at home with members saying “it’s amazing, I really look forward to seeing what’s on the menu!”
There were three objectives that the team at Fitzjohns Food Bank hoped to achieve by bringing to life the Community Cafe:
– offering delicious & nutritious food to everyone
– providing a friendly and welcoming space to sit back and relax
– a place to learn skills and volunteer
– showing the importance of community
6 months later and even in warmer weather it’s clear how needed projects such as this are. Fitzjohns would like to thank their funders for continued support: Lewes District Food Partnership, The Rotary Club, Lewes Town Council, Lewes District Council, and the NADL Make a Difference Locally Fund.
They are also excited about partnering with Lewes Open Door on future community events such as a Community BBQ to celebrate strong communities.