Shadow Minister for Sport, Tourism, Heritage and Music Jeff Smith today saw how social investment has funded a unique partnership between one of the UK’s premier cultural assets and a social enterprise caterer to provide transformative community services.
The MP, who was born, raised and elected in Manchester, visited Open Kitchen at its vibrant café situated on the ground floor of the People’s History Museum in the centre of his home city. The visit was organised by Big Society Capital, the UK’s leading social impact investor. Open Kitchen has received social investment at several stages of its journey, including from the Access Growth Fund and Flexible Finance Fund, to allow it to grow and expand its offering for customers and people experiencing food poverty.
The People’s History Museum tells the story of UK democracy through exhibitions displaying the UK’s political history from trade union banners to personal items from influential characters who shaped the country as it is today. Open Kitchen is a sustainable catering company which diverts its profits towards providing meals for those across Greater Manchester struggling with food insecurity.
The People’s History Museum is free and accessible and offers high quality educational facilities for locals and visitors alike. Both ensure that people in Manchester, which has some of the most notable pockets of deprivation in the UK, can both access world class cultural activities and affordable, healthy meals at a time where 11.6% of households are experiencing trouble with food insecurity.
Jeff Smith, Shadow Minister for Sport, Tourism, Heritage and Music, said: "Community-focused businesses like Open Kitchen are a great source of pride for the region, and it was brilliant to meet Corin and the team to see how they reduce food waste and provide healthy meals to local people. Social investment has clearly been critical in their journey and it will be brilliant to see how they continue to develop."
Corin Bell, Executive Director, Open Kitchen, said: “Open Kitchen is attempting to tackle the issue of food waste, while supporting local people who are struggling with the cost of living. In the short term we are putting perfectly edible food that would go to waste to good use, but we are also working towards a future where good food is not wasted, and there is an end to poverty that means emergency food provision is not needed.
“There’s not a mainstream bank in this country that would have supported us as a small independent food and drink venture during the tricky climate of May 2021 – so our cafe simply wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Key Fund and its investors. They then supported us with a payment break when we needed it later down the line, which again would not have been help we could have accessed from a mainstream bank.”
Stephen Muers, Chief Executive of Big Society Capital, said: “This partnership is an exciting one, with Open Kitchen and the People’s History Museum providing diverse but vital services for people living in Manchester. Access to culture and affordable food are both hugely important and absence of them can have life-long consequences. It was great to be able to show social investment’s role in this particular partnership to Jeff Smith today.”
Chris Colwell, North West Investment Manager at Key Fund, said: "What Open Kitchen and Corin are doing is not just about food – its sustainability, food poverty, supporting local people and in turn changing the whole food system. That’s why we’re proud to have supported them in staying resilient through what has been challenging times for independent food and drinks sellers."