Barefoot Kitchen is a social enterprise that works at a grassroots level to create regenerative and resilient communities in the Tees Valley through food growing, cooking and sharing initiatives. Through engaging farmers, community groups and growers, Barefoot Kitchen seek to create an accessible, earth-first micro food system.
Barefoot Kitchen delivers local food catering provision and food projects for people, places and the planet. A chef and grower duo, their work seeks to engage their community through the medium of food; seed saving, planting, growing, harvesting and cooking. They have built trusted relationships with their community and believe that everyone, regardless of their background, deserves to experience and enjoy good quality food.
Middlesbrough is one of the twenty most deprived authorities in England, with 40% of children living in poverty. Since the March 2020 lockdown, 50% of children have been receiving Free School Meals which has reported a significant drop in their intake of fruit and vegetables. Research by Teesside University has demonstrated how Middlesbrough has a significantly high level of fast food outlets, and found that the most deprived wards in the city have the highest number of fast food outlets, particularly around schools.
Barefoot Kitchen’s work aims to build a local food community in Middlesbrough that is resilient to issues such as food shortages, fluctuations in food prices, and the impacts of climate change on food. This is with the goal of preventing communities from falling into food crises as opposed to tackling them as they happen. Their approach is one that celebrates food and uses food as a tool to bring communities together to positively impact people’s lives.
To achieve this, Barefoot Kitchen work with local farmers and growers to ensure that people in Middlesbrough have access to high quality, local produce. Barefoot Kitchen prepare and serve locally-sourced food to the community, with an accompanying story of the producers behind the produce. This is to provide an affordable and delicious alternative to current food provisions, strengthening the local food economy and fostering a community who care about the food they are consuming.
In 2021, the Foundation supported Barefoot Kitchen with a grant to develop a community growing site in Middlesbrough, to upskill the community in horticultural skills and to increase local food security. The Foundation provided support towards the equipment needed for the new site, including a wooden greenhouse, irrigation system, groundworks and crop protection. Barefoot Kitchen have engaged a small but committed group of people, who would otherwise not have access to learning horticultural skills. They also support the group with their physical and mental health through regular wellbeing sessions.
This growing project is now a part of the national FarmStart Network, an initiative to support amateur growers with the tools and resources to become professional food producers. Barefoot Kitchen are now supporting their growers to establish themselves as social businesses to sell their produce. In line with Barefoot Kitchen’s ethos, these businesses will focus on increasing food security for more vulnerable groups in the Tees Valley.
The Foundation is pleased to support Barefoot Kitchen with a second grant towards kitchen equipment for their new base at Ormesby Hall, a National Trust property. This will be their new space for hosting community groups and running events. Barefoot Kitchen can also freely trade with the public at National Trust and other external events, which will support them to increase their income.