Our visit to Mutual Aid at the Cowley Club

Based in the Cowley Club in Brighton, Mutual Aid is a fantastic project that acts as a community café and food bank to a range of members of the community in need. FareShare Sussex distributes surplus food to Mutual Aid, providing food that allows it to serve a wide range of people. These include refugees, those with mental health problems and those with temporary or long-term financial struggles. The food supplied to Mutual Aid includes fresh produce and is all vegan, allowing them to cater to everyone, regardless of income.

The versatile range of food available allows interesting, healthy meals to be made, rather than solely ready-meals. This can be used immediately used in the café and prevents unnecessary waste. The food provided is also very valuable as it can benefit other projects at Cowley Club. These include workshops that help to bring people together such as cooking classes, yoga, English classes and welfare advice. 

FareShare provides around 40% of the food available at Mutual Aid. Karola, a Mutual Aid volunteer, said that this food ‘takes the pressure off’ and that they ‘really rely on it’. After the initial burst of support ran out, it was really difficult for Mutual Aid to provide high enough quantities of food for many months before they became a charitable project of FareShare. This resulted in Karola baking 15 loaves of bread every week and spending valuable time and money shopping for food. The input of FareShare has helped create ‘excitement every week’ as there is always new food, helping create a variety of nutritious meals.

Sat amongst the plants in the beautiful garden of the Cowley Club, I spoke to Simon, who has been coming to Mutual Aid every week since January. Simon represents how intertwined with the community this project is as he uses the food bank, helps with their recycling and attends yoga classes at the Cowley Club every week. He became dependent on the food bank after he found himself ‘socially immobilised’ due to hearing problems, cut income and problems with mental health. However, thanks to the Mutual Aid food bank, who reached out to him he was able to stay in the community he loves without further medical referral.

To find out more please visit their website.