What’s it like to volunteer at Square Food?
We asked one of our newest volunteers, Lucy to give us her first impressions of the Square Food Kitchen. Here’s what she said...
As I walk into the Square Foundation Kitchen, for the first time it wasn’t the delicious smell of cooking which hit me first, although that was to come. The thing that I first saw was an overflowing basket of clean aprons being emptied from the washing machine indicating that this was a serious set-up. The kitchen is a hive of activity, with dirty dishes piling up in an alarming endless stream. I envisaged a morning up to my arms in soap suds but it was evenly shared between cooks and volunteers ensuring the stack of dirty pans and plates do not induce too much anxiety as they grow.
On arrival you are welcomed by friendly teachers showing you round their domain. A store cupboard to die for, tubs and jars of herbs and spices, long shelves stacked with pans and spatulas, chopping boards and baking trays – in fact every kitchen implement you have ever come across , well used and cared for. A walk in fridge with a terrifyingly solid bolted door, and a constant flow of deliveries from supermarkets and markets, which I later learnt was often donated unbought food. Barny Haughton who heads up the kitchen is an eco-pioneer and his values are carried throughout the operation.
I was shown to a scrubbed wooden worktop, and as a volunteer my role was to support the participants in their cooking and preparation. The group comprised of adults with learning disabilities, and on the menu was Singapore noodles and pineapple upside down cake which they could take home to share with their friends or family. The teaching was clear and the group absorbed every word. The kitchen is a home to a huge variety of teaching from groups of over 70s, to corporate away days, to parents and children from every background, to children expelled from mainstream education. Its variety is its strength and the adaptability of the team to each group its power.
Very soon the bubbling smell of butter and sugar for the caramel could be smelt throughout the kitchen and probably throughout the ground floor of The Park, a former school which houses the organisation. The flour, sugar, eggs and butter were creamed together and placed in the oven which heaved with almost a dozen cakes. Then to the serious job of chopping, and each participant watched the demonstration with intent, and then added their own take. Smiles grew wider as the vegetables, spices and noodles came together to create a delicious meal and the waft of cake baking could be smelled throughout the room. The finale was the unveiling of the cakes and this is where the magic happens - there were broad grins all around. It was a thoroughly satisfying volunteering opportunity for me. So great to see these young people, some with challenging lives, go home with bags full of food they had created, inspired to cook for family and friends and for themselves.