Over 200 people sleep rough on the streets of Nottingham every night, with little access to basic necessities. Doing a little to ease this strain, however, are local charity Tracy’s Street Kitchen, who deliver hot meals, sandwiches, clothing and other donations to homeless people in Trinity Square every Friday.
In 1981, at just 14, Tracy Dickinson found herself homeless after suffering abuse throughout her childhood. Three years later, co-organiser of the charity Andrew Ellis, decided to help her out after seeing her on the street everyday on his way to work. He supported her in gaining a bed-sit, as well as employment as an office junior. Tracy then went on to put herself through Nottingham Trent University, completely turning her life around. After spending so long sleeping on the streets however, Tracy could not just leave her past behind, and in 2016, decided to set up Tracy’s Street Kitchen, providing food for the homeless every Friday at 7pm. Starting with just a backpack of sandwiches and a flask, the charity has grown dramatically in the past three and a half years, now feeding 100 to 250 homeless people a night.
This is no easy task however, and takes two days to prepare. Home cooked meals are provided, such as chicken in black bean sauce and apple and blackberry crumble, and they even offer a vegetarian option each week. For some, this is the only hot meal they will get all week, and although many other charities who also work to provide this have stopped amid concerns for the spread of the coronavirus, Tracy and Andrew are keen to continue, taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of both the homeless and volunteers.
Tracy will often spend around £100 of her own money each week on cooking up delicious and nutritious meals for the homeless and vulnerable.
Unfortunately however, Tracy’s Street Kitchen receives little to no funding, and Tracy will often spend around £100 of her own money each week on cooking up delicious and nutritious meals for the homeless and vulnerable to enjoy. On top of this, the costs of the van used to transport the food and other donations must be considered. Initially donated to the charity, it still racks up charges through road taxes, MOT’s and the parking permit that allows them to set up in Trinity Square, and with the weight of the contents, it is suffering wear and tear.
Despite this, Tracy and Andrew continue to deliver, and have the determination to make this charity into something even bigger. They hope to get Tracy working permanently for the charity, as at the moment she balances a full-time job alongside her volunteering. They hope to find a premise to run their own cafe, providing free food and education for the homeless. As a trained teacher, Tracy wants to educate those in need with basic numeracy and literacy skills, as well as help to develop CVs, in order for them to find employment. On occasion the charity will also bring in a barber to provide free haircuts, something they would like to happen more often, as such a simple thing can mean so much to those with so little.
It is also a chance for the volunteers to put their own problems into perspective after a busy working week.
This development of a cafe will take time, particularly in the bid to find a premise, however in the meantime, there is talk of turning this set-up from one night a week, to multiple. Whilst there is a shortage in certain volunteers, such as a regular barber, the street kitchen does have plenty of volunteers available on a Friday, both to give out the food, and to simply be there to have a chat and a cup of coffee with the homeless. Two PCSOs with designated remits in homeless and street people also attend each week, with regular volunteers and rough sleepers creating a special family bond. Not only is it a chance for the homeless to receive meal and other various items such as clothes, toiletries and bedding, but it is also a chance for the volunteers to put their own problems into perspective after a busy working week.
The charity also receives a significant amount of food donations. Often on the Friday night, volunteers will collect food from the nearby MOD Pizza and Greggs, providing some extra hot meals. Katherine Irons – a volunteer for the charity and PHD student at the University of Nottingham – also collects sandwiches from the Trent and Coates Cafe’s on university campus every Friday afternoon, which are given to the homeless alongside the hot meals and other snacks provided so they have something else to eat during the week. Though during term time this can unfortunately come up short, with some weeks offering nothing, as these are the busiest times for both cafes.
Boots boast about their various commitments to reducing waste, unsurprisingly there is no mention of the abhorrent amount of food they throw out on a weekly basis.
After speaking to staff members at Boots in the Portland Building, Irons discovered that the shop often throw away large amounts of perfectly fresh sandwiches, pastas and salads, however she was denied permission to save this wastage to give to those in need due to a company wide policy, and told that any member of staff going against this, would be sacked. Whilst on their website, Boots boast about their various commitments to reducing waste, unsurprisingly there is no mention of the abhorrent amount of food they throw out on a weekly basis. In a statement provided to BBC’s Watchdog however the company said: “The majority of our food waste is short shelf life chilled sandwiches, salads and sushi, with a remaining shelf life of hours between the store closing time and midnight, which makes it more challenging to donate”. Although health and safety is of utmost importance, the other cafes on University Park campus have considered the precautions and signed a disclaimer regarding some of these concerns. The Street Kitchen also opens in the hours between the store’s closing time and midnight; alleviating this problem and arousing questions upon why Boots would not get involved with this tangible bid to both reduce food waste and help those in need, especially as they have previously been generous with the charity in providing other, non-edible donations. Irons also faced difficulties when appealing for waste donations from outlets on Jubilee campus, with staff telling her that although they have been rumoured to give excess produce to students over the weekend, this is not actually the case, and much of it is simply thrown out.
Whilst the charity is not short on food donations, there can never be enough to give out to those who don’t know if and when their next meal is coming, particularly when so many food outlets are needlessly throwing out food. With big hopes for the next few years, you can get involved by visiting their website: http://tracysstreetkitchen.co.uk/.