Last night I was invited to speak at the Womens Institute at Westcliff on Sea, for their ‘Bountiful Harvest’ themed evening.
And a bountiful harvest it was indeed, with members bringing in dishes that they had made costing less than £1 a head – which I had the very difficult job of tasting and judging – and a bulging table of donations for the local food bank, who also spoke at the evening.
I was overwhelmed by the kindness of the women there, almost all of whom turned up with donations for the Storehouse, and spent the evening chatting to many women who “didn’t realise food banks were by referral only” or “didn’t realise there was one in Southend” or wanted to know what they could do to help. I left the Cliffs Pavillion yesterday evening feeling completely overwhelmed by the kindness of over 100 women, and re-energised after the exhaustion of conference season.
The women that had cooked dishes for the challenge all said how difficult they had found it. One commented that they were surprised how expensive vegetables were, and another that it certainly made her evaluate ‘cost per portion’ the way that she eats.
The winner of the challenge was Jo – who made an absolutely delicious cheese and vegetable bake at 67p per portion – so good I’ve asked her for the recipe!
Others included a beetroot falafel that I’ll be trying, and a broken biscuit cake that I’ll definitely be trying too!
The ladies presented me with beautiful flowers afterwards, which as you can see from my face was a total surprise and very well received! I also received a fee for being their ‘keynote speaker’, which I will be donating to the Southend Storehouse.

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I also handed out a list of suggested donations for food banks to all the ladies present, which I will put up on my blog shortly…
Now it’s an early night for me, as I’m off to Birmingham tomorrow to deliver a workshop at the Urban Expression conference. Busy busy!
Jack Monroe. Twitter @MsJackMonroe. Facebook: www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack