Where do you pick up your veg bag every week? Our collection points are an important part of our community, each with a special tie to their local area and with a strong dedication to giving something back to their neighbourhood. Wherever it is you pick your bag from, you’ll find a special story of places and the people behind your collection point. We caught up with a few of them to learn more.
Georgia & The Story Garden
The Story Garden is an educational charity working with youth and families in Camden, King’s Cross and Southwark. Georgia is in charge of their community kitchen and remembers how two years ago (when they were known as the Skip Garden) they were looking at ways to get involved with the wider community. “We were introduced to Kentish Town Vegbox by our chef at that time. They represent what is important to us: access to good, fresh food.”
The Story Garden grows vegetables but not enough to feed their community, so they occasionally use Kentish Town Vegbox’s surplus for their cooking classes. They see education in healthy eating as a fundamental founding block for the well-being of the community.
Georgia is always at the Garden on Wednesday and gets to personally meet all our members who collect their bags on that day. She says “It’s lovely to see them wandering around. We want more people to know that the Garden is open from 10am to 4pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday – everyone is welcome.” In non-lockdown times, the public can also get involved by volunteering in the Garden every Wednesday from 4pm to 6pm (contact Kiloran@globalgeneration.org.uk to find out more), a great way to get active outdoors and meet other local members over nibbles and hot drinks.
When asked what she would recommend in the local area, Georgia says: “We’re close to the Living Centre with its busy programme of community activities. We also have the Chalton Street market on Fridays and the famous Indian restaurants on Drummond Street. The area is very diverse, it feels less like London and more like a small village where everyone knows each other.”
Gavin & The Fields Beneath
If you pick up your bag from The Fields Beneath on Prince of Wales Road then chances are you know Gavin, the owner. This is a recent addition to our collection point network but there is a longstanding relationship.
Gavin values the work we do because “all fruit and veg are British and the scheme is dogmatic about it.” he says. “I used to receive a subscription box which was meant to be sourced in a 10 miles radius and instead had oranges and lemons from much further away. Eating local forces us to go back to how things used to be, making do with what we grow here and not change our food ethos because the public has developed exotic taste.”
He shares the story behind transforming The Fields Beneath into a vegan coffee shop: “My wife and I read the book Eating Animals and that gave us the knowledge to become vegans. For the business, it took another nine months but I clearly remember slicing the ham for our sandwiches back in October 2016 – I found myself thinking of my cats, and that’s when I took action.
I brought back a brilliant chef with whom I had worked before and she transitioned the menu to vegan recipes. We wanted to replace things without people even noticing, my mom doing the cakes and the chef in charge of the savoury stuff. The aim is to offer vegan food at the same price or cheaper compared to food based on meat and dairy. The biggest challenge has been to change the customers’ mentality from dairy milk to oat milk but we’re getting there.”
Gavin likes to think of his shop as a shared space, that’s why he likes Kentish Town Vegbox members freely coming in and out to pick up their bags. Open doors can also lead to unexpected encounters: “During the first lockdown, one guy used to come in the shop every week to pick up his bag.” Gavin tells us. “We had time to chat so I found out that he was a chef at a restaurant in Marylebone, and he would go to his restaurant every day to feed the sourdough starter. I challenged him to make a vegan challah bread.
Fast forward 7 months on, and he’s made a small business out of this idea, he now rents my kitchen once per week and prepares vegan challah and dips to sell. This is an example of what can happen when you link likeminded people.”
You’ll find the Fields Beneath open for takeaways as well as a selection of natural wines from organic and biodynamic farms in Europe, as well as Georgia and Armenia, “the original winemakers of the world!”, says Gavin.
Deepa @ 36 Primrose Gardens
36 Primrose Gardens in Belsize Park is one of our oldest pick-up points and it is run by the lovely Deepa. We call her “the big mama to her collection point baby”. “I got upset when the scheme got bigger and new collection points were added in the area, I honestly want to be the focus of Belsize Park!”, she confesses.
Deepa grew up in the house she lives in today and has a special relationship with the area. “My parents bought it in 1959, I was born here and this is the only home I’ve ever lived in. When I was growing up, there were no children at all – I remember my sister and I had no kids to play with. Some of the elderly residents did not like us play in the centre of the garden – now things are very different. Belsize Park is great for families and the gardens are used and loved. During the first lockdown people from outside the area started to come here as they discovered the gardens: it is nice to see them used.”
Deepa is always at hand, especially for new members picking up their bags for the first time: “Sometimes I am just at home and a new member comes along and gets stuck how the collection works. It’s been very useful to help people out there and then and it is nicer to interact.”
Deepa rents out en-suite rooms in her house for periods of 2-3 months or longer, if you’d like to learn more call her at 07531 128 083.
Daniel on Tollington Road
Our scheme has recently expanded to Holloway and Archway with new collection points in these areas. One of these is at Tollington Road, in the front yard of one of our members, Daniel.
“I like the scheme because it’s a community-led project, run by us volunteers.” says Daniel. “In Italy we have what we call “Gruppi di Acquisto Solidale”, community buying collectives. Kentish Town Veg Box is the closest thing to that: people buy in bulk together, we distribute the food ourselves, we support the farmers and get fresh food in the city. It’s self-organised, it’s truly by the community for the community.”
Daniel believes that veg box schemes like ours has a ripple effect: “Healthy eating is important for us because it makes us live better; it’s important for our community because we can create a network of people helping each other; it is important for our farmers because we give them a regular and steady source of income with manageable logistics, and it’s important for the planet because it is organic and greener.”
When asked how the new collection point was received, Daniel explains: “People like it because it is convenient and discreet, just off the main road. It’s been nice to have some interaction with other local members when they’ve buzzed at my door for help. It makes you feel part of a community.”
“Tollington Road is pretty much an intersection of communities in fact”, he continues. “There are all kinds of things going on here: Holloway Road, Seven Sisters, the Nag’s area…it’s very down to earth and I like how it’s rough around the edges. It’s nice to go to a corner shop and be able to buy fresh Ethiopian coffee, Turkish spices or Chinese goods, plus there is the car boot sales market. There is definitely a buzz about the place!”
Phil & Poppy running the Tapping Admiral & Lady Hamilton pubs
Two of our favourite collection points are the Tapping the Admiral and Lady Hamilton pubs, managed by couple Phil and Poppy. Currently shut because of lockdown 2.0, we asked them both how they are getting on with this crisis.
“Currently neither site is doing a takeaway service, but that could change over the coming weeks, please keep an eye on our twitter/instagrams (@tappingadmiral/@tappingtheadmiral and @ladyhamiltonNW5). When the pubs do reopen, come and support us by buying a drink/meal/packet of crisps.”
As all pub operators, Phil and Poppy are worried about what is ahead: “Without the support of the public, the industry will crumble, and that will have a far greater effect of the general public than people appreciate. We are people’s lounges, their homes from home and their common ground with one another. Pubs are going through the most challenging time any of us has experienced, and friendly customers can make a hard shift far less trying, without even knowing it.”
They miss the interaction with our members coming to pick up their bags: “Half of the Vegbox members will come in and wait patiently until a staff member has time to grab their bags, and the other half will indulge in a cheeky half/pint/few drinks when collecting. Either approach is valid, and regardless of which route they take, they are always friendly, polite and patient, which is all we could ask for when someone crosses the threshold of either of our pubs!”
What’s for sure is that both Phil and Poppy are committed to staying in the area: “We’ve been fortunate enough to have lived and worked in or around, Kentish town for about 12 years now. It feels more like home than where we grew up. We’ve seen it change massively over the years, today Kentish Town has a real community within it, and a lot of that is down to the small, independent, businesses that are based here. We love that on the way to work we will stop to chat with locals we may see on the street, and we can contribute to local causes as businesses working within a community.”
Do you know of any location that would make a fantastic collection point for our Veg Box scheme? if so, let us know on firstname.lastname@example.org