FEATURE: Community diner aiming to put pride back in village
Determined community members are striving to bring people together and put the pride back in a Derbyshire village.
Passionate residents in Grassmoor have launched a new social eating experience - The Pit Stop Diner - in a bid to tackle loneliness and poverty.
And now people are being encouraged to visit the super kitchen, which is based at Grassmoor Community Centre, New Street.
Volunteers serve up tasty and nutritious low cost meals created from food that would otherwise go to waste.
The super kitchen has been running since September, with about 200 people attending so far.
The diner is currently open once a month, but it is hoped that funding will be granted to allow it to continue running in 2017 if there is enough interest.
Derbyshire County Council and Grassland Hasmoor Big Local are joint funding The Pit Stop Diner as part of Feeding Derbyshire - a project aimed at tackling food poverty. They are also working in partnership with Grassmoor Community Centre, FareShare East Midlands and Eudaimonia.
David Maric, board member at Big Local, said: “It is about getting that pride back in the village which this village unfortunately lost when the pits shut and a lot of the industries shut around here.
“It is not just for the elderly, it is for the young people as well. It is about getting them together, getting them talking and giving them a good, nutritious meal.
“We are trying to get as many people from different backgrounds and hobbies involved.”
The food used comes from Tesco and Fare Share - an organisation which saves good food destined for waste and sends it to charities and community groups who transform it into nutritious meals for vulnerable people. The food is fresh, quality and in date surplus from the food industry.
Mr Maric explained: “Unfortunately a lot of people are under the impression that the food that we get is no good. It is about getting the message across to people that the food is high quality.
“We can get the food from Fare Share and also now we work in conjunction with Tesco at Clay Cross which is a fantastic help to us. Without them we would be struggling a bit because we need different ingredients in order for the chefs to construct a meal.
“We are getting there with the community but it has been difficult.”
Dallas Asher, support worker at Big Local, said that people were wary about the quality of food at first.
She said: “When people ask me about the food I say ‘would you but something out of the reduced section to save yourself £3’ they say yes. And to be fair the food we get has got more time to it.
“It has not only brought the community together but also people with skills together, to share experiences and to learn together.
“We would like to make it more than once a month because sometimes people can’t make a particular date.
“We are all for equality, no one should be left out of anything and that’s what we are keen on.”
The food is delivered to the community centre a couple of days before the diner is open, and then volunteers use their skills to put together a menu which can include a two, or even three-course meal.
Volunteer chef, Janie Barker, said: “We are all passionate for the cause and obviously the social interaction is fantastic but also we are tackling food waste which is a global concern and people that have been in poverty.”
On the first meeting of the diner in September, 75 people attended, included many families, as a film experience for the children was also set up.
One of the main obstacles the diner has faced has been making people aware that it is happening and that everyone is welcome to attend.
Grassmoor parish councillor, Bryan Garbutt, said: “The main aim is reaching out to lonely people who wouldn’t normally come out. For example there’s three widows in different parts of the village and they have formed a little table and they come and meet and have a chat. It is about bring them into the community and making them feel that they belong again whereas they have been forgotten in the past.”
There are currently six super kitchens operating across the county in Chesterfield, Clay Cross, Cotmanhay, Grassmoor, Ironville and New Mills. There are also plans for more across Derbyshire.
The dedicated volunteers at the diner are a mix of young people looking to gain experience and who can learn new skills from the more experienced volunteers.
Louise Hall, public health development worker at Derbyshire County Council, said: “We want it to be community led and be a hub for the community so people come together and it can be a central point to share information and find out what is going on.
“It is a new initiative in the area to help increase social eating, reducing social isolation and bringing people together in the community.
“We have got loads of volunteers who are learning new skills which gives them good potential for future job opportunities and getting them out of the house and doing something positive.”
The Pit Stop Diner is now hoping it has proved there is a need for such a scheme and is hoping to get the funding from Derbyshire County Council required to keep it going in 2017.
Derbyshire County Council cabinet member for health and communities, Councillor Daven Allen, said: “We were impressed with the way the super kitchen volunteers use food that would have been thrown away to provide low-cost nutritious meals in community venues so we were keen to approve funding to set up that system in Derbyshire.
“We are delighted that our Feeding Derbyshire strategy is being developed in one of the areas where it would provide most benefits for residents and are keen for volunteers to come forward to get more branches open in other communities as soon as possible.”
In a final call for anyone who has not heard of The Pit Stop Diner before, Mr Maric added: “Come down to the community centre, meet people and you will be surprised to what is on offer.”
If you are interested in volunteering at The Pit Stop Diner, call 01246 85790.