As we set up shop with The Long Table this Christmas, discover how this social enterprise is bringing communities together through good food and great company.
This Christmas, we are welcoming a brand new LG pop-up shop, close to Lulu’s home in Stroud. Lulu has partnered up pioneering social enterprise The Long Table, based in Brimscome, to sell bags and accessories for an innovative and worthy cause. “I’m a big fan of The Long Table. I’ve always loved the idea that it’s somewhere to go and have good food and not be lonely”, says Lulu.
“By everyone sitting around a long table, it means they can chat and make new connections. It’s also a really clever way of looking at the needs of community when it comes to food. I wanted to see what we could contribute on the retail side!”
The shop itself is in a very cute shed selling bags and accessories from just £10 to help with Christmas shopping and generally try to bring some cheer this festive season. It opens its doors on Friday 18 December and all proceeds go to The Long Table.
“I wanted to give this Christmas and be creative with what we can contribute - not just have a big sample sale for three days. So in the spirit of The Long Table, we have set up shop with bags available to buy extremely cheaply”, she explains. “And spread a little joy too, I hope! It’s in the Lulu Guinness DNA to raise a smile and hopefully share some cheer.”
The mission for The Long Table was simple: what if everyone had access to great food and people to eat it with? It was this mantra that spurred Tom Herbert and Will Mansell to set up The Long Table in an old Brimscombe warehouse in 2018.
They shared a mutual dismay of how society is doing food badly, leaving people unwell and lonely. Shamefully, one third of all food grown and produced is never eaten. And so, a new kind of Community Interest Company was born, with a team from a variety of social roots that shared this one vision.
“Our aim is to make locally sourced and lovingly prepared food available to everyone, regardless of social or financial background”, says Tom. “The Long Table sets out to find delicious answers to some of these food issues. As a team, we put food at the centre of the community.”
The Long Table is also much more than a canteen. “When we are at our best”, says Tom, “we jump at the chance to connect people around a meal and enable groups to heal their local communities with good food”. This encompasses creating a canteen and community space where everyone is invited to cook, learn and eat. People with barriers to employment can gain meaningful work, learn invaluable skills, and locally grown food can be celebrated.
The big message is - food is more than fuel. It brings people from all walks of life to the table and the positive change our society is hungry for. “I really admire what Tom and Will are doing”, says Lulu. “I really see at as the future for community, and possibly retail too!”
Joining in and supporting The Long Table:
- Fully funds every meal that goes to the Freezers of Love out in the community. This means those who can’t make it to Brimscombe can access meals.
- Pays for training their apprentices so we can help nurture young people, giving them great experience in cooking and delivering food in a sustainable manner, putting people and planet first.
- Funds and enables communities to hire cooks, set up enterprises and feed their own communities Pay-As-You-Can meals, with all profits going directly back to them. This model circumnavigates the normal way food businesses are set up and gives the support and agency that these passionate communities want.