St Austell Community Kitchen (STAK)
“We are trying to get clients to regain their pride; to see that they can do something for others, that they can be part of what is happening in the town.” Kim, STAK Manager
St Austell is an old market town, once famous as the centre of the china clay industry. Despite the decline of the industry, it remains one of Cornwall’s largest towns.
According to Church Urban Fund (CUF) statistics, St Austell is among the most deprived parishes in the country, ranking 11,219 out of 12,706.
“STAK would not work in a city or a village, it needs to be in a town like St Austell.” Adam, STAK volunteer
STAK, which has been running now for over 25 years, has had a number of different venues but is now at 8 High Cross Street, St Austell – although it does not own the premises and is continuously under threat.
The organisation is currently placing bids for funding to buy the building and secure its future in the centre of the town, where it is both easily accessed and able to maintain good links with other agencies and support services.
STAK is largely dependent on voluntary effort.
Both trustees and workers are volunteers giving their time and energy freely, and the meals provided are the result of high levels of voluntary contribution in the form of food donations from individuals and institutions, from supermarkets to local shops.
STAK is open from 10.30 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Saturday. It provides morning coffee, a three-course midday meal and a tea meal. The main meal costs £1, but for those who have no money there is always a large bowl of hot soup, bread and tea/coffee, and guidance as to how to get vouchers for the local food bank, or other forms of help.
STAK has achieved a great deal – in 2012 it provided some 3,570 hot and nutritious three-course meals, and 690 free meals for those who cannot afford the £1 which the main meal costs. 3,435 cups of tea/coffee were consumed.
STAK also provides courses such as Food Hygiene and First Aid, a handicrafts club, and runs a computer club and some computer courses.
STAK is now established as a Charitable Company limited by guarantee and is managing to be more successful in applications for grants of different types.
Grants from the Church Urban Fund and the Rose Mullion Trust are enabling the organisation to pay manager Kim Mathews and a part-time accountant, and, with support from the Church Urban Fund staff, STAK now has a business plan and is applying for capital grants to support purchase of the building.
The demand for meals and other support is ever increasing and STAK, along with other community kitchens and food banks, is seeing a steadily increasing number of people who cannot afford to pay for their food.
STAK sees itself as helping people build tolerance and acceptance, giving people a chance to step back a little from the chaos they live in.
Part of the importance of STAK is the atmosphere it creates, so that it does welcome all and encourages people to talk, engage and get some positive social interaction.
STAK recognises that the individual exists and matters. It notices their presence and their absence and helps them to engage in something bigger than themselves, in something called ‘family’, or community.