Meet some real-life heroes in my series of special interviews with people who represent the spirit and heart of the North East.
Millie Stanford is one of the founders of Northern Soul Kitchen, a pay-as-you-feel cafe in Berwick that uses food that would otherwise go to landfill to make nutritious and delicious meals. Their mission is to stop food waste, to provide healthy meals for everyone, and to bring their community together – and they are doing just that!
In this interview, Millie tells us more about Northern Soul Kitchen, their favourite spot to visit, and more…
Tell us a bit about you and your personal connections with the North East.We are from the local area and really proud of our hometown! We love Berwick and the surrounding area. Not only is it beautiful but there are so many people doing really interesting things in terms of new businesses and socially-conscious projects. It’s a really great community to be a part of.
Tell us about the work you do at Northern Soul Kitchen, your mission, and your role in the community.Our work came out of our love for our hometown and community. For everything good about it, we could see that there were also some issues affecting people locally – namely food waste and food poverty. We had heard of similar projects started in Leeds by The Real Junk Food Project and wanted to establish something similar in Berwick. Our mission is this: we want to stop food waste wherever possible, ensure everyone has access to tasty, nutritious food, and bring people together in the community. We do this by saving food from going to waste from supermarkets and local businesses. We then turn this into meals that people can buy on a pay as you feel basis. We have been running for over 4 years now but this year has seen our role in the community change more than ever. Covid-19 has impacted everyone greatly and we have been working hard to make sure our services are available to them, such as free food parcels, school holiday meals and hot meal deliveries. As always, we’ve had amazing support from the community, such as local businesses donating surplus food, volunteers preparing and delivering it, and of course people buying it! Any money spent with us helps to support the project so we can continue our services for more people.
What amazing work you do!
It’s often said that the people and landscapes of the North East are full of ‘spirit’ and ‘heart’. Tell us, what do you love most about the region?This is so true! We absolutely love our community and the people in it. The beauty of Northumberland is like nowhere else and we’re so lucky to live here. And the wildness around us is sort of echoed in the people. There are so many interesting characters doing interesting things, people are really passionate about what they do here. And I think that’s partly because people are really inspired by living round here. How can you not appreciate what we have on our doorstep such as the sea and the wildlife? Of course, this year more than most everyone has had it tough but we’ve been so fortunate that when we can get outside, we have this amazing landscape around us to cheer us up.
Is there one place in the region that you always like to visit and would recommend to others?Ooo it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. Roughting Linn waterfall is pretty special for a visit – it feels a bit like an enchanted forest. And pretty much any beach in the area. You can’t beat driving to Bamburgh from the north and being hit by the magnificent view of the castle as you come around the top of the hill. A walk on the beach always blows the cobwebs out, no matter what time of year.
Do you have a favourite shop or business you think everyone should know about in the region?We have been lucky enough to collaborate and work with so many local businesses and shops so this is really hard to narrow it down. One we think deserves lots of attention is The Green Shop on Bridge Street in Berwick. It’s a trailblazer of a business having been organic, local and fair trade for nearly 30 years. They have the most amazing produce and products – so many things to discover and explore. And they were one of the very first to support Northern Soul Kitchen – something which we’ll be eternally grateful for!Â
Sounds like a great place.
Which three words best describe the North East?‘Wild’, ‘free’, ‘community’.
Favourite North-Eastern slang? What does it mean?An oldie but a goodie – it’s got to be ‘bari’! ‘Bari’ means a few different things I think – good, lush, pretty, handsome – just generally positive things!
The North East is packed with history, myths and legends, songs and folklore. Do you have a favourite song or verse that you associate with the area?Sorry, we don’t know any off the top of our heads… we grew up with stories of a ghost in Norham Castle but that may have been an urban legend! Being surrounded by so many castles and things, I think we may have taken it for granted that it’s just part of the landscape.
Who do you think is a hero in the North East?Right now, it’s the frontline workers across the area who have been working tirelessly this year to keep everyone safe and fed. Our NHS workers are just amazing, and deserve all the support they can get. Also, people working in the supermarkets and essential services – those often in the unseen jobs but who are vital in keeping things going. These are the real local heroes.
Completely agree! Finally, tell us what makes you smile?People doing good things for each other. This year more than ever, we have been bowled over by the generosity and kindness of people in our community. There is so much heart in our community and it’s been incredible seeing people pull together and look after each other. It’s what we do best.
Thank you so much for joining me, Millie, and for telling us about the amazing work you do!
Thank you to Kate Baguley for helping to coordinate these special interviews.