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Street Food: How Clay Farm Food became a community

Launched and run by volunteers, it's bringing street food and community spirit to Trumpington

Clay Farm Food - pictured pre-lockdown (46665201)
Clay Farm Food - pictured pre-lockdown (46665201)

If you go down to Trumpington’s Hobson Square almost any night of the week, you’re sure of a delicious dinner. Home to the Clay Farm Food collective, named for the neighbouring community garden, it’s parked with a selection of the city’s tastiest street food vans every evening from Wednesday to Saturday, and often on Tuesdays, too.

“This is a very new community - the longest anyone has lived here is eight years - so the mission statement was to bring that community together and also to integrate it with its neighbours,” explains James Hems, resident and current Clay Farm Food coordinator. “Food is such a great enabler. Where there’s good food, people will follow. Plus it’s a natural talking point; an ice-breaker.”

Officially launched in October 2020, Clay Farm Food has also proved a lifeline for the street food vendors who pitch there. “With their usual pitches outside offices and stations closed by Covid, they needed to reach people, and there are 4,500 homes here,” continues James, who describes himself as “the current baton holder: I was preceded by other community members and hopefully I’ll be followed by them, too”.

Clay Farm Food, pre-lockdown
Clay Farm Food, pre-lockdown

Starting with a single van - The Cook’s Nest which, famous for its Greek gyros, brought a fan following with it - Clay Farm Food now hosts an ever-expanding and changing rosta of trucks, ranging from city stalwarts like Steak & Honour (Riverside beef burgers) and Guerilla Kitchen (steamed and stuffed Asian bao) to new ventures, including Nana Jude’s Bagels and Apple & Jalapeno, a pandemic diversification project from city pub The Architect. Outdoor social distancing rules apply, including two-metre spaced queues.

The pandemic has precipitated “a big shift” towards shopping small and eating local, observes James. “People are conscious of the need to support independents who, unlike the big boys, can’t go to the stock market or the bank for buoyancy funds.

“Bringing independents to the doorstep also makes supporting them very easy: Pizza Passione, which often comes on a Tuesday, offers two wood-fired sourdough pizzas for the price of one from the High Street and they’ve been doing really well.”

With the longer term plan to launch a monthly market, spanning arts, crafts and produce stalls as well as street food, Clay Farm Food is already having “a ripple effect”, adds James. “It’s bringing in people who’ve never been to this part of Trumpington before; it’s doing its job, bringing the community together.”

To find out more, including a timetable of this week’s street food vendors, follow @clayfarmfood on Instagram. If you’re interested in having a stall when the market launches, contact the team via DM.

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