Words by: Lucy Snow (she/her)
Artwork by: Rory Mcmillan (he/him)
We live in a time where the weekly food shop embroils a gut-wrenching dread and poses the question: do I eat well or heat my house? Projects like Kinning Park Community Kitchen allow these worries to disappear for one evening per week by offering pay-what-you-can prices and bringing members of the community to eat.
As someone who’s newly moved to Glasgow, finding pockets of community has become essential in feeling this large city is my new home. As of a few weeks ago, I’d never heard of Kinning Park and how lucky I am now to know it exists. I firmly believe that food is the best way to unite strangers and friends alike. Whilst I have the privilege of a flat, food in my cupboards and a hot water bottle, I can only fathom how much more this need for support is for people without these luxuries.
Walking into Kinning Park Hall, there is an immediate and palpable sense of calm. Families, elderly people, students and everyone in between have meshed together with no barriers or exclusivity. Regardless of your ethnicity, age, gender or sexuality, this space caters for all. The kitchen aims to support asylum seekers and marginalised, vulnerable members of the community. It dawned on me upon walking into Kinning Park that this space is more than just a place to get a free meal. It allows people a sense of belonging within a community, beyond the difficulties they have faced from the dissimilarly cold and unaccommodating attitude of the state towards asylum seekers. Conversation flows across the room and fills the atmosphere with undisputed warmth and acceptance. Truly, this was an aspect I loved about my dinner, eating with people whose paths I would never have crossed.
Generally, my mind seemed to wander to the matter of what I could eat next, so naturally, I was very excited to see what was on offer. I was delighted by the menu, and unsurprisingly the food was delicious. Everyone had a vegetarian three-course supper. The portions were so generous I was struggling to finish! To start, we had chickpea soup with bread, followed by vegetable and jackfruit pilaf with naan bread and to finish, a big bowl of ice cream with a mango glaze. It is clear that the team at Kinning Park dedicates time, love and energy to ensure the community receives healthy and hearty food.
The kindness of people coming together to support their neighbours never ceases to amaze me, and now more than ever, their weekly efforts are incredibly appreciated. I managed to grab a quick chat with one of the teams towards the end of dinner. She shared with me the story of how Kinning Park Community Kitchen opened and the trials and tribulations it has faced. Local residents recognised there was no space or food centre for asylum seekers on the south of the river, so a few team members began gathering food donations, cooking and distributing meals themselves. It’s hard to forget the effects of COVID-19, but she shared with me that during lockdown restrictions, they managed to stay open in some form or another. Volunteers cooked from home, transported food and created a pop-up mental health cafe to provide support to those with nowhere else to go. Over the pandemic, this pop-up provided 33,000 meals. Now, with funding from the Scottish government, support from their dedicated volunteers and continuous donations, the kitchen is open and here to stay.
Identity and belonging are aspects of life most take for granted, yet we cannot ignore the pushback from governmental officials. Systemic racism and contributing factors like Brexit exacerbate discrimination against asylum seekers by the government. In Glasgow last year, we witnessed this discrimination at the notable Kenmure Street dawn raid and protest. Two men, originally from India, had lived in Scotland for 10 years and were denied the opportunity to remain. On the morning of Eid, their home was raided by the police and these men were detained with the aim of deportation. The community was quick to respond. Their neighbours and the people of Glasgow gathered around the van for 8 hours preventing the home office from carrying out this cruel and unjust procedure.
Undoubtedly, projects like the Kinning Park Community Kitchen provide a corner of peace and a sense of belonging over a free hot meal. The demand for community kitchens is reaching higher and higher levels due to the cost of living crisis. These projects provide a glimmer of hope, proving the positivity of uniting members of a community at the shared kitchen table.