“It’s all gone. That’s 80 free curries in one go,” Rachel Cross, vicar of St Frideswide Church on Botley Road tells me grinning broadly.
She’s partnered up with Dr. Sâmân Jamshidifard’s Botley Community Kitchen to help serve a big community meal every Friday from 4pm-6pm to anyone who wants one, and it’s a massive hit.
It also means that the food surplus in Oxford is being reduced, avoiding good food being sent to landfill.
Locals, professionals, families, friends, the elderly and young couples all congregate at St Frideswide Church every Friday lunchtime to eat Dr. Sâmân Jamshidifard’s lovely curries and catch up, big trestle tables full of people enjoying themselves, often meeting for the first time.
And not a penny changes hands.
On Mondays and Wednesdays from 3pm-5pm you can find the curries being served at Seacourt Bridge Pub in Botley where they are prepared to an equally appreciative crowd.
The initiative began 15 months ago when Dr. Sâmân and Rachel got together to discuss how to reduce food waste locally.
Rachel had been keen to introduce a community meal without any stigma attached and for Dr. Sâmân, cooking a curry with the surplus food donated to Oxford Food Hub that day seemed the obvious solution.
Saman, a business lecturer at Brookes, borrows the kitchens at Seacourt Bridge Pub in Botley to prepare the feast when the kitchens aren’t being used.
“It’s been a slow burner but gradually the word got out,” Rachel tells me. “People come for takeaways as well, as long as they bring their containers back, and the curries are always veggie (usually vegan too) and people love them. We just keep going until it’s all gone.”
“And it’s lovely seeing people from all walks of life coming together to eat; from MPs, professors and councillors to single mums and students, all are welcome, and all join in,” Saman tells me.
So this isn’t about food poverty. “No, although there are no questions asked. If people are struggling to feed themselves or there families no one would know, unless they want to tell us, but generally speaking there are people from every walk of life here all keen to help reduce food waste,” Rachel adds.
Staffed by volunteers, or ambassadors as Saman likes to call them, who chop vegetables, serve and help out, the curry lunch is also helping spread the word about food waste.
“We all eat, whatever your status, it’ a basic human need so it seems a good way to get the community together. And there initiative is growing week-by-week
Over the road at the West Oxford Community Centre on Fridays, more Botley Community Larder ambassadors are hard at work filling bags and boxes for the public with endless free goodies – from bread and meat to cans, drinks and fresh veg – all of which otherwise would be heading to landfill.
There is a small monthly membership fee but my haul included cans of Evian water, white sliced bread, potatoes, tins of tomatoes and some vegan biscuits.
“Food makes us all feel better,” Saman grins, “And I’m a foodie person so a big community meal seemed like the obvious solution. I’m just glad so many people are enjoying it.”
Find out more on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BotleyKitchen