Komatsu helps re-stock larder at People’s Kitchen

A North East manufacturer has helped restock the shelves at one of the region’s best known support services for the homeless and vulnerable.

Komatsu UK has donated £10,700 to the People’s Kitchen in Newcastle, helping the organisation provide warm meals for people who rely on the service throughout the COVID19 pandemic.

With year on year charitable donations down almost 70%, the People’s Kitchen has had to delve into reserves to ensure it could continue to operate. Fundraising Manager, Maureen Armstrong, said the Komatsu donation has allowed it to restock its depleted warehouse.

“Like everyone else, the People’s Kitchen was impacted by the onset of the lockdown as the pandemic started to take hold,” said Maureen. “We went from providing a safe space for our friends to come and get a warm meal, to then providing a takeaway service which we had to stop due to people congregating around the Alison Centre. So, we became a delivery service! There has been a considerable effort to ensure all of our friends could access food and we have overcome every hurdle placed in our way.

“We are delighted to be back offering the take away service and incredibly grateful for the Komatsu donation, which is amazing and very much welcomed.  With the drop in donations during COVID, we have had to dig into our warehoused stocks, where we store many of the tinned and dry goods donated by school and church harvest festivals.  I had never seen the shelves so empty, and this donation has helped us re-stock.”

From left to right Maureen Armstrong, Lynne Murray and Kevin Hall.

The People’s Kitchen serves hot food and provides a safe haven for its users, referred to as “friends”, at its headquarters in Bath Lane, Newcastle. Still operating on the “friendship and food” principles established by its founder, Alison Kay, in 1985, the Kitchen serves between 100-150 meals a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

The People’s Kitchen was put forward as a potential KUK charity of the year by employees and selected by a vote of the firm’s Sports and Social Committee. HR officer, Lynne Murray, said: “We invited Maureen and the People’s Kitchen into Komatsu last year to speak about the work they do there and we were totally inspired by what she had to say. For over 30 years they have ensured that their friends receive at least one warm meal a day, but in reality, what they provide goes far beyond food.

“The People’s Kitchen takes pride in providing food and friendship – a listening ear and support in any way possible. It is a lifeline for many people who have found themselves on the streets for one reason or another.”

So inspired was Komatsu UK CNC Team Leader, Kevin Hall, that he has signed up as a volunteer for the service. “Maureen spoke so passionately about the incredible people who work and make use of the People’s Kitchen, it really got under my skin,” he said. “I just felt like I wanted to be part of it and do my bit to try and improve someone else’s life. 

“I was a little nervous when I first went in, but after a few minutes, I completely understood why Maureen had spoken so enthusiastically about the place. It was full of life and interesting people and I 100% bought into everything they’re trying to accomplish there.”

Kevin, who is 58 and has worked at Komatsu for 30 years has never volunteered for a charity, but added: “If I won the Lotto, I’d donate a large amount of it to the People’s Kitchen. I spoke to one elderly gentleman when I was there who told me, “we’re all only three pay packets away from being homeless” and that really brought it home to me how it could be any of us who are in need of that little bit of help.”

Details for donations to People’s Kitchen can be found on the website:

Komatsu has delivered the highest quality excavators since establishing the plant in 1987, when it helped redefine modern manufacturing in the North East, establishing a range of Japanese practices and ways of working unheard of in most UK plants.

Originally creating 250 high quality manufacturing and engineering roles, Komatsu was at the forefront of the creation of a whole new industry in the North East that centred around automotive and construction equipment manufacturing.