Wellingborough food pantry founder happy to give people back their 'dignity'
A Wellingborough teacher who had to stop work due to her mental health deteriorating says she is the happiest she has ever been now she is helping others.
Jacqui Brown had moved to Wellingborough from Jamaica 13 years ago, to teach science, but after medical advice she put her career on hold because of day-to-day pressures.
The 46-year-old turned to volunteering at her church's Make Lunch project at the Hemmingwell Community and Skills Centre which led to her setting up It's Open Kitchen, a 'food pantry',
in October 2018.
Jacqui said: "The food pantry is for people who are on free school meals, Universal Credit and for all people who are struggling.
"They can go around and choose their food, they pay a small amount but they have their dignity and choice.
"I have now set up the It's Open Kitchen CIC - a not for profit organisation so I can now apply for grants."
Unlike a food bank, It's Open Kitchen uses in date surplus food provided by large food retailers which would otherwise go to waste a result of over-stocking.
Jacqui is supplied with produce by food charity Fare Share and the Co-op which her not-for-profit organisation passes on.
She said: "We are given chilled, fresh fruit and vegetables, cereals, ready meals, meat and sauces as well as bread.
"We lay it out on the tables and people who pay £5 can pick up two to four bags of food.
"We have 24 families on our books at the moment and anyone can sign up. All that we ask is that people give me their phone number so I can let them know if there's a change.
"Because I'm a DBS checked families can come along with their children. I see this growing and developing. I want it to be a community thing."
From January 3, 2020, Jacqui will be using her teaching skills to open an after-school club at the Hemmingwell Community and Skills Centre.
She currently works as a performance lead for Northamptonshire county netball with their U15s squad.
The mum of one added: "Serving is my calling. I thought that teaching was it but when mental health came and I got general anxiety disorder I thought what can I do and this fell into my lap.
"It's improved my well-being no end and I've not been happier. I've been supporting people now I find I've made friends and relationships with people around here. I visit them just to sit with them and have a cup of tea.
"This is the happiest I've been. I have a purpose and I don't dread getting up in the morning. I feel at peace."
It's Open Kitchen opens every Wednesday from 11am to 2pm in the Hemmingwell Community and Skills Centre in Nest Farm Crescent.