Set up by Muslim Hands just over a year ago, The Open Kitchen on Mansfield Road has become a vital source of hot, healthy food for local people in need. We catch up with manager Imran Khan, who lifts the lid on just how important the Kitchen has become in that time…
For those who don’t know, what is The Open Kitchen?
We basically help anybody who is struggling to figure out where their next meal is coming from, providing them with hot food for free. We also offer a range of other foods, including tinned goods, vegetables, crisps, chocolate, cereals. We’ve got a lot of items that can keep people going throughout the day.
We work alongside other local organisations in the same field, like churches and community centres. There are details on the noticeboard here so our service users always know where they can go to get a nutritious meal or shelter any day of the week.
You’ve touched on the fact that people can receive hot, healthy meals here. How important is it to offer these nutritious, well-rounded options?
It’s a key focus of what we do. Every day we cook different meals, so there’s always variety. One day we’ll offer Korean rice, tomorrow could be pasta and chicken - and we always have vegetarian options. We keep a hot plate on the go which means the food stays warm, so people can come in and have a proper, filling meal.
Yet The Open Kitchen isn’t just about food - you also provide a warm, safe space for people to learn and socialise…
Yeah, it can get really busy here as people take a seat and chat with each other. We invite people from different organisations too, like the East Midlands Chamber and outreach groups, who come and help people to get jobs and find accommodation. We don’t just want to offer a place for people to eat, but to get back to living a full, happy life.
We have a massively diverse group of people that rely on the service, and it really changes their lives. Working here, I can visibly see the improvement in people’s livelihoods
Have you seen an increase in demand over the past year?
Definitely. Since April, we’ve gone up to 100 meals a day. Before that we were only handing out half that number. Working here, you hear some really tough stories about how people are being affected by rising costs, poverty, homelessness. The Government needs to do more to help, because they’re just not doing enough at the moment.
How can people support your work?
Donations are so important. What we do is really expensive, and Muslim Hands is responsible for funding and running the project. So any financial backing always helps massively, as well as donations of non-perishable food. If people can’t afford to help out, they’re welcome to come in, have a chat, maybe help to tidy up and chip in that way. We’re always grateful for anyone’s support.
The Open Kitchen has been open for around a year now. How crucial has the service become in that time?
This is one of very few places where people can get a hot meal seven days a week. There are other organisations that open their food banks every day, or offer hot food some evenings, but there aren’t many kitchens that are open every lunchtime. We have a massively diverse group of people that rely on the service, and it really changes their lives. Working here, I can visibly see the improvement in people’s livelihoods. We’ve had individuals who come in looking weak or depressed, but over time you see them gain weight and look happier and healthier. We’ve done so well that now other cities are looking at what we do for inspiration. I think that’s fantastic.
You can donate to The Open Kitchen on the Muslim Hands website, where you can also find information on opening times and the charity’s other projects
We have a favour to ask
LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?