Granville Community Kitchen’s Dee Woods on Food, Learning, and the Importance of Community Decision-Making

4 May 2021

Dee Woods is the co-founder of Granville Community Kitchen, an ethical, sustainable, culturally diverse community food hub in South Kilburn. She sat down with PeerUp to share a bit of her story and what the centre is doing.

 


Dee Woods is smiling sitting on a bench with green plants of Granville Community Garden behind her

Dee Woods in Granville Community Garden © Orlando Gili

Could you give a bit of background about the issues facing the community that you are tackling with Granville Community Kitchen?

Granville Community Kitchen was set up in 2014, in response to the degree of household food insecurity we were observing from different organisations, as well as families and people we knew. From doing that, we realised there were other issues going on around homelessness, mental health and education. We developed a series of programmes to address that. Everything we do has been with the community. So they would come to us and say, you know, this is the issue in terms of rent, or this is the issue in terms of HS2, and we support the community in either working to get some support around it or to address it.

 

Can you tell us a bit about how you got started with the Kitchen and the personal journey you have taken with it up to now?

Part of that journey of starting the kitchen was also my own. I myself was experiencing some household food insecurity after an Atos review [an assessment for disability benefits], which left me with very little money whilst I took the case to court. I didn’t want to go to a food bank, and recognising that other people were in a similar situation, I decided, well, you know what, we all have different skills and knowledge and we could do something together. We already had the community garden, which started two years before, and we started doing a lot more in terms of growing food organically and teaching people how to grow food organically, and growing food for meals that we were making in the kitchen. We started cooking regular meals – a lot of them were for social activities as well – and cookery classes.

For me everything is like an onion. It’s like, well why is it after 100 years – why do we still see these problems in this area? What is going on? And realising it’s policy, it’s various decisions being made, so I started getting active in the policy space. That resulted in me going on the London Food Board. Leslie [GCK Co-founder] and myself became part of a network of community organisations where we came up with policy proposals for the London Plan. I worked on the environmental ones which included food growing, and Leslie and I both worked on Housing and Community-Led Housing.

 

Where did you get the knowledge and the drive in the first place to take this on?

No knowledge whatsoever! I just jumped in, head-first, and learnt on the way. Literally… and I’m still learning and I’ve gone from just doing things on a city and local level, to national and international. Mainly within the food sphere but also a bit of housing as well.

What have you done on an international level?

I’m part of 2, maybe 3 international organisations…

Urgenci, which is the international Community Supported Agriculture organisation. I’m part of the Global Network for the Right to Food and Nutrition, so I’ve been campaigning on that for several years. I’m part of the Landworkers’ Alliance in the UK, which is part of La Via Campesina, which is the largest farmers union in the world, I think with over 44 million farmers.

Yeah, I think it’s actually more than 3!

 

A sign reads 'welcome to Granville Community Garden' with lush plants in the background

Could you tell me what are some of the highlights of what Granville Community Kitchen has achieved so far?

Wow, we’ve had many highlights! I think just having that recognition as a kitchen. We’ve won an award from the Mayor of London.

I think a personal win, but also recognition for the kitchen, was when I won the BBC Cook of the Year in 2016. That really was a community celebration.

Just the fact that we are recognised for what we do and how we work, and that we get people from all over the world come and visit. We’ve had farmers from the Basque come and visit, from Germany, all over.

 

What’s next for you as an organisation? What are your long term aims?

In the long term… food aid is not the solution. From the very beginning we never saw food aid as being our main objective, but to create some sort of strong local food economy. And that’s one of the reasons we’ve started the good food box, to work towards that. We’re hoping to start our farm this year. That will be part production, part educational, because everything we do we has an educational thread running through it. We want to create more employment as well for people.

Where is the farm going to be?

Somewhere in the peri-urban as we call it, which is the outskirts of London. Because there is only so much food we can produce to scale around here. We do have a patchwork farm, we have little plots in different parts, but the farm will be different.

 

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in food for communities, who is just getting started?

Include your community from day one. Talk to your community, make decisions together and keep revisiting them, because things change.

We literally had a list that long [Dee points from the ceiling to the floor] of what people in the community wanted. We realised there were some things we couldn’t deliver, but everything else around health and wellbeing we have managed to deliver – exercise classes, women’s only exercise classes, yoga, games, social things. We’ve managed to deliver mostly everything. We couldn’t build a swimming pool in the garden – we did actually explore the idea, and that was partially my dream as well – to have boats over on the green [there is a small park across the road from The Granville Centre], yeah, and do like an urban boat project. We did explore it, we visited Bristol to look at the project a friend of mine set up and realised we probably couldn’t do it there. We could probably do it in Queens Park, so it’s not a total loss. We have spoken to the council about doing an orchard project on the green instead.

Yeah, we’re trying to make an edible neighbourhood basically.

An edible paradise it sounds like! Amazing, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us.

You are most welcome.


a circular mosaic with the words "Granville Community Garden"

Granville Community Kitchen are currently crowdfunding to make improvements to their garden this spring. You can donate to the campaign on spacehive or go the the GCK website if you are interested in signing up to the good food box or joining as a volunteer.

Their Food Aid service is currently open for collections Wednesdays 3-4.30 and Fridays 4.30-6.30 at the Granville Centre in South Kilburn.