Cracking Good Food: Meet the group giving out free kitchen equipment to those in need
The food poverty crisis goes beyond the food itself – kitchen equipment is another expense that’s beyond the means of many. Cracking Good Food is an organisation distributing preowned kit to those in need
by: Brontë Schiltz
7 Jan 2024
Kitchen Kit Call Outs officials with Mayor of Trafford Dolores O’Sullivan. Image: Brontë Schiltz
Christmas festivities may already feel like a distant memory but the financial impact often lingers far longer.
MoneySuperMarket recently published its latest Household Money Index, revealing Manchester as the British city with the highest average Christmas spend at £2,274.80 per household – 25% higher than the UK average. Meanwhile, GWP Group reports that just 1% of Christmas gifts are still being used six months after they’re unwrapped.
As the UK continues to grapple with the impact of a cost of living crisis, one organisation is working to reduce waste and give to those who have the least across Greater Manchester.
Cracking Good Food was founded in 2010 with the aim of supporting local people to cook affordable, seasonal and nutritious food from scratch. Now it holds regular Kitchen Kit Call Outs, redistributing donations of preloved but good-quality kitchen equipment, from kettles and microwaves to mugs and cutlery, to people in need.
“The project started just after Covid, when our founding hotel went to a women’s direct access hostel in Manchester, and she just so happened to have a spare tablecloth,” said director Tracey Torley. “The ladies there were just overcome. That tablecloth created a homely space.” Cracking Good Food subsequently donated some further equipment, and an idea was born.
“Think of it like a kitchen kit car boot sale – but everything is free for community groups, charities, homeless prevention hostels and other organisations who need it,” she said.
“Not having the equipment to cook with can be a real financial hurdle when times are tight. Plus, much of the equipment we are redistributing has often been sitting unused in the back of people’s cupboards – this way we save it from heading to landfill too.”
The events have a significant environmental impact. Already, they have saved over five tonnes of equipment from landfill, and by providing plates, bowls, cutlery, mugs and glasses, they enable organisations to stop relying on flimsy plastic disposables.
In December, the fourth such event was held, this time in partnership with Microsoft and University Academy 92 (UA92). The space it was hosted in was an upgrade from its usual carpark setting in nearby Stockport.
It was attended by representatives from 40 local organisations (up from nine at the first event) whose beneficiaries include people experiencing homelessness, refugees, survivors of domestic abuse, care-experienced people and ex-offenders, among many others. One attendee, who wished to remain anonymous, works for a local hostel that currently houses and provides meals for 77 former rough sleepers.
“The issue that we have is that lots of residents take our cutlery and plates, so we have a limited supply that is getting depleted all the time,” she said. She had come to pick up mugs, cutlery and cooking equipment to broaden the hostel’s food provision offer.
Big Issue vendors have benefited from similar donations. Last year, Colin, who sells the magazine in Manchester city centre, received an oven and a microwave funded by donations to 500 Acts of Kindness, a fundraising group set up by actor Julie Hesmondhalgh.
Back in 2021, Sheffield vendor Mohammed also received a cooker from his regular customers – a gift that meant a lot to him. “I have worked as a chef in London,” he said. “I am very good at cooking. I really enjoy making food and then eating with other people.”
Pat Okekearu is the project and volunteer coordinator at Revive UK, which supports refugees and asylum seekers. Each week, Revive provides around 120 meals, but Okekearu was in attendance primarily to collect items to give directly to beneficiaries, who face challenges ranging from being barred from employment to experience of domestic abuse.
“When you have to flee for your life, what do you take with you? Nothing,” she said. “We’ve been in existence for over 20 years, and the need is ever evolving.”
Financial barriers can also prevent people from leaving abusive situations. UK charity Surviving Economic Abuse notes that “95% of cases of domestic abuse involve economic abuse”, and that many victims “leave with nothing – having no money even for essentials – and have to start from scratch”.
In such cases, especially for refugees and asylum seekers who don’t have local support networks and often have no means of earning an income or recourse to public funds, the provision of basic kitchen equipment can mean the difference between insecurity and safety.
Also in attendance was the Mayor of Trafford, Councillor Dolores O’Sullivan. “This event marks a significant effort to address the need for sustenance,” she told Big Issue, adding that community efforts had enabled Cracking Good Food “to distribute kitchen kits and essential household items to those who need it most”.
Most of the volunteers at the event were Microsoft employees, who also introduced Cracking Good Food to UA92. Among those in attendance were Marie Hamilton, who leads on the company’s place-based strategy for Greater Manchester.
“We’re about empowering people to achieve more, and clearly, if you’re hungry, you aren’t going to be able to achieve very much, so this really resonates with what we’re doing,” she said.
“Everyone deserves good food and Cracking Good Food are fighting food poverty and health inequality by providing people with the skills and equipment needed to feed both themselves and their families.”
UA92 CEO Sara Prowse also attended the event. “We love what Cracking Good Food do,” she said. “We’re so aligned with their values in terms of helping people from disadvantaged communities, so to give this space for the day was a no-brainer, really.
“With Cracking Good Food nourishing communities with its mission to eradicate food poverty, and UA92’s commitment to nourishing the mind with our vision of making education accessible to all, this is a perfect partnership.
“We’re delighted to support the Kitchen Kit Call Out event. It’s incredible that the team have already redistributed over five tonnes of kitchen equipment destined for landfill.
“Our relationship will continue in 2024 as Tracey and the team bring their affordable, sustainable and heathy cooking lessons to our UA92 Youth programme, which supports young people from youth groups across Greater Manchester.”