Community food hub nourishes north London's foodies and food banks
- Credit: Nourished Communities
Working as a teenager on farmers' markets led to a career-changing role for Rollo Millership during the pandemic.
When the first lockdown hit, the Canonbury-raised entrepreneur started helping producer and farmer friends find new routes to sell their wares - and delivering them to isolating households who were struggling to source produce.
The venture has grown into a community business supplying everyone from foodies to food banks. And Millership has ditched his job in marketing to run Nourished Communities out of a Canonbury furniture showroom.
"At 15 I started working on Farmers Markets across London," he says. "Then whenever they started a new market I would help them find reliable local workers. Over the last 15 years I saw farmers' markets go from strength to strength and become a real platform for communities. I ended up building a big network of farmers and producers across 28 markets."
The former William Tyndale pupil started his own markets in Hoxton Square and London Fields while working in advertising and marketing. So he was uniquely placed when customers were faced with empty supermarket shelves last March.
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"All the farmers' markets closed because of corona. For a lot of producers it was their main outlet and a huge shock, they needed help to go online and there was a surge of demand as people panicked and were scared because they didn't know how to get eggs and were thanking us for what we were doing."
Millership first set up a distribution hub for fruit and veg boxes at the Sekforde Pub in Farringdon before moving into a bigger space at Coexistence in Canonbury Lane.
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"The owner said 'I love what you are doing, our showroom is empty and we moved in the next day. What started as a table in the middle of the room is now 17 shelves, plus fridges and freezers and we are adding new products every week. I left my career and this is my life now. It's amazing the momentum we have built and how it is creating ripples. It's a real collaboration, 85 to 90 percent of our producers are local."
They include Thai curry pastes from Farang in Highbury Park, Honey from Arsenal stadium and Highgate, My Neighbours The Dumplings from Clapton and Victoria Park, Land Chocolate from Hackney, tahini from Stroud Green and coffee from the Chapel Market roastery.
Millership acts as a benevolent intermediary bringing together artisan, seasonal and local producers with a receptive audience who have an understanding of the inconsistencies that come with that. Alongside meat, cheese, bakery, snacks and ready meals, Nourished Communities has added exotic fruit and veg, spices and dry goods, but is always on the look out for producers and their passion projects.
And true to the spirit of a community business they supply 18 food banks across London including the Union Chapel, Highgate and Hilldrop Community Centre as well as a Curry Club delivering 150 free meals to food insecure families in Highbury in partnership with top chef Meera Sodha.
Millership has seen demand wax and wane with the lockdowns, but believes there has been "a paradigm shift in consumer behaviour".
"People felt let down by supermarkets with their long supply chains built around efficiencies and are keen to support their local economy. It's also pushed some producers to do things they wouldn't have done but be incredibly successful in the online space."
There are three ways to order from Nourished Communities. Click and collect to the Upper Street hub, postal delivery anywhere in the UK or delivery to most N1, N4, N5, E8, N6, N7, N8, N10, N19 NW5, NW8, NW3 and NW5 postcodes. Use the code NourishedN1 to get 10 percent off your first order.