On Your Doorstep
Lancashire And Region Dietary Education Resource, or The Larder has opened the doors to its brand-new café in Preston. Tracy Hargreaves went along to its launch to see what it’s all about. Photography: Paul Melling
Brainchild and founder of The Larder, Kay Johnson, from Preston, has always had a passion for sustainable food and for sharing that passion. A registered nutritionist, she has over 20 years’ experience as a health professional. She grew up on a farm where her interest in food began in early childhood. After several years of working in the food industry as a chef and subsequently in product development, she completed an MSc in Nutrition at Kings College, London in 1992.
“I have worked both nationally and internationally developing and delivering nutrition programmes, working with Aboriginal communities in Australia and taught nutrition to Burmese refugees who were training as medics in Thailand,” says Kay. “I also worked for over 11 years in the public sector as a community nutritionist specialising in managing programmes for disadvantaged groups and schools before becoming self-employed and for the last 14 years and I’ve delivered food related courses, workshops and presentations to businesses and government organisations.”
In March 2015 she founded The Larder, a social enterprise which provides accredited and bespoke food and health related training to a range of organisations. Four years later and this not for profit organisation has opened its first café and food academy opposite Preston’s Town Hall, in a bid to share the food hub’s message about healthy, local and seasonal and waste-free food. With produce locally sourced within a 30-mile radius of Preston, where possible, you really will see where your food comes from. Its purpose is to collectively support the movement for sustainable food in Lancashire and mobilise action against the following six priority themes: Promoting healthier and sustainable food to the public, tackle food poverty and increase access to affordable healthier food, build community food knowledge, skills resources and projects, promote a vibrant and diverse sustainable food economy, transform catering and food procurement and reduce waste and the ecological footprint of the food system.
“We’ve wanted to open a café for a long time,” says Kay. “But it had to be long term and sustainable, so a lot of work has gone into getting the funding and finding the right location. We’ve had some Big Lottery funding and some of our furniture is second hand, but without the dedication of a hard-working small team, volunteers and donations, it wouldn’t have happened. When people come in, they will experience sustainable food that is ethically and locally sourced. We can trace where many of our ingredients come from and tell people all about what they are eating. With food poverty on the increase, we want this to be educational too.”
Kay plans to get local producers in to do tasters, the café will also be the venue for talks, events and accredited catering courses as part of its food academy, which members of the public can book on to. All the profits from the café will fund the work The Larder does in the community.
The café has a warm, welcoming feel and it’s plain to see that the staff have the same passion as Kay. The launch event was packed with foodies, councillors, charities and colleagues from around the country, including renowned food critic and journalist Sheila Dillon. Sheila lives in Hoghton and is a presenter on Radio Four’s the Food Programme.
Around the walls of the café are displays of post war paintings c1950s by local Preston boy John Spiby. The pictures were discovered after his death by his daughter Helen Spiby-Vann. Helen, a close friend of Kay’s, wanted somewhere to showcase the paintings, which had never been seen before. “My dad died when he was 91 years old, and no one knew about these paintings,” says Helen.
He was an artist and went to art school. Some of them we think were based on family members or his life, there are paintings of a family sitting down to dinner in a kitchen and one of a family celebration. The café seemed the natural place to put them on display and we’ve had great feedback about them. My dad would have been proud.”
If you want to find out more about where your food comes from, attend a cookery course or simply want to enjoy a locally sourced meal at the café, then pop into The Larder on Lancaster Road, Preston to find out more, or follow on Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheLarderLancashire