On a Monday afternoon in late November, charity UKHarvest, architects RCKa and several dedicated volunteers opened the doors of Nourish Hub in Shepherd’s Bush to host a PX Forum on community-led regeneration and local food culture.

As a community kitchen “challenging and changing our relationship with food, through experience, education, and building close links to the local community”, Nourish Hub officially launched in February 2022, in a ceremony attended by HRH The former Duchess of Cornwall. Since then, the space, operated by UKHarvest, has continued to welcome all kinds of people, serving up free hot meals daily and sharing lessons about food waste, nutrition, and cooking skills.

“We use food as a catalyst to engage, educate, support… the space is usable in so many ways”.

Ffion Hayward, Nourish Hub

When we arrived on November 28 at 4pm, the kitchen had kindly cooked up delicious bread and a chocolate fudge cake, using up discarded produce which would otherwise have gone to waste. The space – a former post office and local supermarket situated within the council-owned Edward Woods Estate – was set out with colourful chairs, communal tables, and various edible plants grown in indoor vertical gardens.

The forum was led by Dieter Kleiner (Founding director, RCKa) with Anthony Staples (Associate, RCKa), Ffion Hayward (Hub manager, UKHarvest), Clare Dawburn (Volunteer, Nourish Hub), and Mounira Igheldane (Volunteer, Nourish Hub).

Using Nourish Hub as a living case study to inspire discussion, the hosts had put forward three broader questions for the forum:

  1. What do you need to make change happen on the high-street and bring a regeneration project from paper to reality?
  2. How can good design facilitate the economic sustainability and longevity of a high-street regeneration project?
  3. How can high-street projects embed themselves within the community, providing agency to local residents and ensuring a lasting project legacy?

Here are the main takeaways from the lively discussion that ensued:

1. Assemble the key ingredients

Several key ingredients had to come together for Nourish Hub to make its way from vision to reality.

1) the space: an underused local authority assets in a prominent location looking for a new purpose;

2) the operator: an active third sector partner (UKHarvest) with a clear purpose in line with local needs;

3) the finances: GLA Good Growth Funding combined with a tailor-made sustainable business plan (shaped by Inner Circle Consulting);

4) the context: latent social and economic potential of a neighbourhood and its communities; and, last but not least,

5) the people: a dedicated project team and passionate project leaders with the energy and smarts to break through red tape.

At some times, these ingredients would serendipitously align, channelling the project forwards with relative ease. At other times (or perhaps most times), the team, led by Yvonne Thomson, CEO of UKHarvest, was required to push hard to make progress. As Ffion reflected, “without Yvonne, I don’t think it [Nourish Hub] would have happened.”

2. Co-design the menu

Further key to Nourish Hub’s success was the local engagement that superseded the redesign of the space.

“You really can’t undersell the relentless community engagement approach that went ahead of this project,” said Sandra Perez from Inner Circle Consulting.

As the architects of Nourish Hub, RCKa spent a considerable amount of time engaging with local people through signposting, events, workshops, and door knocking. One of their first initiatives was to paint the shutters of the vacant unit to draw interest from neighbours and passers-by. Later, they collaborated with a graphic designer to run a workshop with local children, which resulted in the creation of a ceiling mural inspired by healthy foods.

Regular volunteer Mouni can testify to the impact of these early-on activities. “No one trusted that anything good could come of it,” she says, speaking about the vacant post office unit. That all changed when the workshops started. “It created so much trust. It felt like, finally, something was happening for us.”

In addition to building trust, the engagement also led to practical results. Tony recounts the moment when they realised that one kitchen wouldn’t be enough. “We discovered that we needed a commercial kitchen, capable of producing hundreds of meals a day, but we also needed a domestic kitchen where everyone would feel welcome.”

Today, both kitchens are in regular use, enabling Nourish Hub to fulfil its full ambitions as a source of meals, education, and community.

3. Invite everyone to the table

Since opening, Nourish Hub has welcomed thousands of visitors from all walks of life. With a glazed, transparent facade that beckons people to enter, and an interior that feels well-designed but not too precious, anyone and everyone may come together to eat, learn, and exchange experiences centred around food.

“The threshold is very successful,” one participant observed, referring to the unit’s interface with the street. “I’ve seen many different people come through the door, and I think that has a lot to do with design.”

Clare, a long-term volunteer in the food sector, talked about the impact that Nourish Hub is having on the fabric of the local community: “Over the past year, I’ve noticed relationships building between completely random people. There’s much more interaction now than when we first opened.”

Where a regular foodbank usually requires people to prove their need, Nourish Hub operates on a donations-based model, which Ffion, Mouni, and Clare agree helps to create a more dignified experience for all.

Still, Nourish Hub is working hard to bring everyone to the table. “The people who need it the most are the least likely to ask for it,” Clare says, reflecting on the accessibility of the offer. To overcome this challenge, the team is continuously reaching out to local anchor institutions and leveraging their personal connections within the local community.

Event hosts, from left to right: Mouni, Ffion, Clare, Tony, and Dieter.
Event hosts, from left to right: Mouni, Ffion, Clare, Tony, and Dieter.

Learning from Nourish Hub

Returning to the three core questions set out at the start, it is clear that there is much to learn about community-led regeneration from the story about why and how Nourish Hub came to be.

“The secret sauce is that Nourish Hub is one clear thing, which can have many things happening around it. There is something great about the singularity of the space.”

Louise Duggan, GLA Regeneration

At the outset, the vision that UKHarvest brought to the project helped to direct everyone’s energy in the same direction, setting the foundation for a robust business plan and providing the substance for a meaningful community engagement approach. Most importantly is perhaps the involvement of people with different skills who share a passion for community building, and their ability to find each other and work together to align financial, spatial, operational, and societal requirements.

Towards the end of the discussion, Mouni exclaimed: “I really hope there will be more places like this around London.” Hopefully some of the lessons shared in this forum can help ensure that there will be.


  • Dieter Kleiner, RCKa
  • Anthony Staples, RCKa
  • Ffion Hayward, Nourish Hub
  • Clare Dawburn, Nourish Hub
  • Mounira Igheldane, Nourish Hub

Edited by Aishni Rao & Camilla Siggaard Andersen

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