Food for thought as new ‘so­cial’ restau­rant set to open its doors

Voucher scheme means peo­ple can vol­un­teer in ex­change for meals at unique Ayr eaterie, writes Jonathan Rim­mer

The Scotsman - - Scottish Perspective - @rim­mer­journo

Work has be­gun on a new ‘so­cial’ restau­rant in Ayr which is aim­ing to fight food poverty and pro­mote com­mu­nity spirit.

The restau­rant, named Unity Grill, is the brain­child of An­gela Mc­nay, who has pledged 100 per cent of the prof­its will be in­vested into fight­ing food poverty.

Ms Mc­nay, who has just fin­ished a so­cial pol­icy de­gree, has been vol­un­teer­ing at her lo­cal food bank for the last three years.

She be­lieves food poverty and so­cial iso­la­tion go hand in hand and wants Unity Grill to “to help al­le­vi­ate hunger” by al­low­ing “those who can­not af­ford to pay the chance to sit at our ta­ble with those who can”.

“I wanted to cre­ate a space where that’s not a bar­rier so cus­tomers have the op­tion of vol­un­teer­ing an hour of their time for a voucher, mean­ing you can come back an­other time if you don’t have the money,” she said.

“It re­stores peo­ple’s dig­nity be­cause it’s not about get­ting some­thing for noth­ing.”

Ms Mc­nay has long been com­mit­ted to cam­paign­ing against de­pri­va­tion in her area. As a stu­dent at the School for So­cial En­trepreneurs, she even wrote her dis­ser­ta­tion on food poverty.

She said: “My in­spi­ra­tion re­ally comes from the ex­pe­ri­ences I’ve had work­ing at the South Ayr­shire food bank and other food or­gan­i­sa­tions. I’ve seen the im­pact that food poverty has on peo­ple ev­ery day.

“This is my at­tempt to do some­thing dif­fer­ent. So much of our cul­ture is based around food. You meet your friends for food and cof­fee, but if you face food poverty you can’t take part in that.

“All of our prof­its will go back into al­low­ing us to use our voucher scheme. We’ll also al­low cus­tomers to ‘pay it for­ward’ so cus­tomers can pay for a cof­fee or a lunch or some­one’s din­ner – that will also al­low us to con­tinue to give vouch­ers.”

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing fund­ing from the Bank of Scot­land to put her plan into ac­tion, An­gela set up a crowd fund to raise money for fur­ni­ture and kitchen items. The £5,000 target was smashed in un­der two months, with 174 sup­port­ers rais­ing £6,210.

Now she is adding the fin­ish­ing touches to the restau­rant with a lit­tle help from the good peo­ple of Ayr. Yes­ter­day, vol­un­teers from Give a Day Ayr­shire, an ini­tia­tive where peo­ple take a day out to sup­port lo­cal projects, painted the ex­te­rior of the shop.

She said: “Ev­ery­thing we’ve done has in­volved the lo­cal com­mu­nity. We’ve also been run­ning dif­fer­ent cour­ses ev­ery week.

“For ex­am­ple, we’re run­ning a course with the Up­cy­cling Pal­let Com­pany so peo­ple can learn things like how to lay a floor and how to make fur­ni­ture.

“It’s not just about us­ing vol­un­teers to get things ready; it’s all about teach­ing and learn­ing things to­gether.

“It helps the com­mu­nity have own­er­ship of the space. It means some­one can come in and say ‘I made that’ and take own­er­ship of a part of it.”

Al­though the project has been sup­ported by the lo­cal com­mu­nity, Ms Mc­nay said that staff would be hired and paid and the restau­rant would be run as a business. She has also ap­pointed an all-fe­male board of di­rec­tors to help en­sure the restau­rant opens smoothly at the end of the sum­mer while in­volv­ing the com­mu­nity ev­ery step of the way.

Laura Wa­ters, one of the di­rec­tors, said: “As well as tack­ling food poverty it is about bring­ing com­mu­ni­ties to­gether.

“The beau­ti­ful thing about Unity Grill is that if can­not to pay you are able to vol­un­teer your time. No one wants to use a food­bank and with Unity Grill you can choose what you want to eat and it will be fresh good food.”

0 Vol­un­teers work on the Unity Grill restau­rant. Pic­ture by Ker­rin Carr

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