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Written by Louise Tickle, Local Trust’s journalist-at-large.

With foodbank usage across the UK rising one community group in York is serving up a solution, and encouraging local enterprise at the same time.

Tang Hall Big Local (THBL), located in the east of the city, have been providing freshly prepared meals for residents, helping people to eat healthily using produce from local suppliers.

Working with local chef Joe Fennerty, they have created a food project which not only combats hunger but looks to improve self-esteem and a sense of community.

The focus on quality of food is high, with Fennerty also a chef at a leading York restaurant, his expertise goes towards transforming veg from local suppliers that would otherwise go to waste, because of size or shape, into delicious three course meals.

The insistence on providing first class catering isn’t only about fabulously flavoursome food: it’s about social justice and encouraging aspiration says its former chair, and now project lead Anna Bialkowska.

“There’s this thing in deprived areas that people shouldn’t expect too much, and then they internalise it – that’s what we’ve been trying to counter,” she explains. “If you don’t, then people don’t believe they deserve anything good.”

As well as investing in Joe Fennerty’s time to feed the community, THBL also support a volunteer to run a Food Co-op outside Tang Hall Community Centre in a shipping container. The co-op, called Food Circle, offers seasonal, locally grown and organic groceries for anyone who drops by.

The residents’ partnership, which is part of the Big Local programme, a National Lottery Community Fund initiative administered by Local Trust, has also invested in Fennerty’s social food business concept. They commission him to cater for a variety of events and expeditions, and most recently, funded a six-week cookery course taken by six local residents. This included a trip out to a nearby smallholding to glean unwanted vegetables left in the soil after commercial orders had been fulfilled.

Tracey, who was inspired to learn with Fennerty so she could cook healthy meals for her three children, made apple fritters for the first time and they loved it, she says “I don’t have time for fancy recipes, but I’ve realised it can be quick and easy to cook from scratch, especially if you batch cook. The nice thing about coming here is you get to try things out. It’s learning new ways of doing things, rather than just boiling a leek.”

When project lead Anna reflects on their offering and looks to the future, she looks beyond any one individual food initiative, no matter how delicious they might be.

“Legacy might not be concrete,” she suggests “It might be abstract. It might be about having been treated with dignity and respect, so you remember what that feels like. And so, you start to come to expect that.”

If you would like to find out more about Local Trust and Big Local programmes, Matt Leach will be speaking at this year’s Big Tent Ideas Festival on August 31st at Mudchute Farm.

Big Local is an exciting opportunity for residents in 150 areas around England to create lasting change in their communities through resident-led funding. The programme is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and managed by Local Trust.

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