The installation of a brand-new, purpose-built, community kitchen at St. Augustine’s Church in Gillingham has been unveiled as part of an innovative programme aimed at supporting people in Medway to improve their health and enhance their employability.

The community kitchen is part of ASPIRE (Adding to Social capital and individual Potential In disadvantaged REgions) – a project co-financed by participating partners and Interreg France (Channel) England Programme: European Regional Development Fund which will be delivered at several locations in Northern France and Southern England, including Medway. 

In Medway ASPIRE is being delivered by Medway Community Healthcare (MCH), which is engaging key stakeholders and people from the local area in the design of the programme. The first pilot programmes are planned to start later this year.

The new community kitchen at St. Augustine’s Church will act as a hub for the ASPIRE project in Medway and a place to deliver some practical elements of the programme, such as cookery demonstrations and practical workshops, using locally-grown produce from the project’s own allotment plots at Fort Amherst. The kitchen is the start of an exciting long-term plan which will support people to gain the skills to make positive changes in their daily lives. 

The challenge tackled by ASPIRE is reflected in local statistics: the national unemployment rate in Britain is currently 4.9%, and latest statistics estimate that 28.0% of adults in England are obese and a further 36.2% are overweight but not obese. The proportion of adults living with obesity in the South East is 24%. 
“The rise in obesity across Europe is a significant concern and high levels of obesity often coincide with high rates of unemployment. Evidence shows that the longer a person is unemployed, the higher the rates of obesity, with rates reaching up to 32.7% after a year or more of unemployment. We know that more needs to be done at a local level, particularly with the impact of COVID, to help tackle these issues and to support people to make healthier lifestyle choices,” explains Julie Webster, ASPIRE Programme Lead for MCH.

“Whilst eating healthily can often seem unachievable on a budget, knowledge of how to cheaply grow and prepare fresh fruit and vegetables can make all the difference. We are delighted to have the new ASPIRE kitchen at St. Augustine’s Church. It will be a place to share and help people gain the skills they need to live full and healthier lives,” adds Julie.

A small launch event took place on Friday 21st May at St. Augustine’s Church to mark the official opening of the kitchen and was attended by special guests The Worshipful The Mayor of Medway, Councillor Jan Aldous and The Right Reverend (Rt Rev) James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester, who both came to support the project. 

ASPIRE project partners Wellbeing People and C3 were also at the event to help promote the next stage of the project.

Next steps for ASPIRE

As part of the next stage of the ASPIRE project, MCH is calling on people who either live, work or study in the area around St Augustine’s Church, which sits on the junction of Rock Avenue and the A2, to take part in a CHESS walk (Community Health Engagement Survey Solutions) in collaboration with C3.

Participants will be shown how to use the CHESS™ app to review local shops, food outlets, amenities and public spaces. Together, you’ll explore what changes in the local environment can either help or harm our health and wellbeing. 

The walk will take place on Monday 21 June. Those who take part will also receive a £25 supermarket voucher to thank them for their time. 

On Monday 5 July a follow up Insight Session will share the CHESS walk results. The project team will work with you, as members of the local community, to draw on the findings and collaboratively create an action plan. The CHESS action plan will be implemented as part of the ASPIRE project.

To find out more or take part, please contact or 07795 267 282.