Windsor Castle date: Kay Johnson of Preston Larder collects her MBE

A VIP visit to Windsor and a meeting with Princess Anne and TV fashion expert Gok Wan were among the highlights of a day Kay Johnson will remember forever.

Thursday, 25th November 2021, 7:35 pm

After some 25 years working to reduce food poverty, improve cooking know how among the young and raise awareness of eating locally produced and nutrition packed produce, Kay's contribution was recognised in the Queen's Honours.

The founder of social enterprise Preston Larder has shared memories of her recent trip to Windsor Castle to receive the award.

She said: "It was quite incredible. We were really treated like royalty. It was just wonderful. We got shown around all the rooms and got to see the paintings and murals on the ceilings. I had a chat with Gok Wan who was also receiving his MBE. "

Kay en route to London

Kay was accompanied by Larder volunteer and friend Gill Watson.

She continued: "Then we had to practise curtseying which was quite hard in second hand stilettos. I had to got to a charity shop to get shoes to go with my dress."

The vintage 1950s dress was loaned by Kay's sister. She said: "The problem was I didn't have time to go shopping so the night before I went to my sister and said can you find me something? She showed me a dress and I looked at it and it was too boring. She insisted I put it on and it was amazing ... it looked so nice."

Her shoes had cost £2 and were dyed black the night before the presentation. Kay said: "They were a little bit big so I had to practise curtseying without falling over."

Kay Johnson (right) pictured outside Windsor Castle

As for the award itself she said: " It's lovely. It's got a beautiful pink ribbon and little box and it's beautiful...It was a really, really lovely day."

Kay and Larder supporters also had a celebration at the Larder cafe on Lancaster Road, Preston, later in the week, as plans were announced for the re-imagining of the Larder following the pandemic lockdown.

The Larder ( Lancashire and Region Dietary Education Resource) was established as a community interest company in 2015 and has run initiatives such as the Kids In The Kitchen project which seeks to combat holiday hunger amongst youngsters. The Larder Cafe opened on Lancaster Roaad in 2019. But the pandemic has proved a challenge for the social enterprise.

When the cafe was able to reopen after lockdown it was clear the footfall was not there and the continuing lack of customers has hit its income.

Kay in the vintage dress borrowed from her sister

The Larder has been in the process of reimagining its future and intends to continue as a wholefood deli and eco hub selling ethically sourced products ranging from household products to food ingredients, with a refill station as well as an arts and community space. Kay, who in the past has worked as a nutritionist, teacher and chef, said: "There hasn't been anything like this in Preston. We've spoken to the community, everything we do is very much community led."

For more on Kay's work see here and here and here.

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Kay has many memories to savour of the very special day she received her MBE