Meet Tom

Caroline Pankhurst

Transition Stroud newsletter editor Josephine Murray (JM) talks to Tom Herbert (TH), who co-founded The Long Table community food organisation with Will Mansell in 2018.

See below for three things you can do today!

JM: What prompted you and Will to start The Long Table, and how did your previous work /areas of interest feed into it?

TH: Will Mansell had been running The Grace Network for four years before I joined in. When we first worked together, I was second hire at Stroud District Kids Stuff. As we got to know each other I shared my vision for The Long Table and how we might work together in a ‘real’ way and that was enough to get us started. My love of food and eating together seemed a powerful way to address some of the world’s ills.

JM: Can you tell us more about The Long Table’s aims and what it does?

TH: We believe that awesome things happen when we eat together. There’s real energy in it, and through our work we are finding answers to our driving question; what if everyone in our community had access to great food and people to eat it with?

The challenges and opportunities connected with food and eating together are humungous. It takes a strong sense of purpose and an encouraging community to do anything at all when faced with loneliness, food waste, diet-related disease, lack of opportunity for youngsters and the impact of our food systems on the planet. So we pay attention to where the food comes from, choosing first form local growers and celebrating them as best we can, training youngsters how to cook, working with the Diocese of Gloucester and NHS, and local councils, being a Community Interest Company owned by a Charitable Community Benefit Society so anyone working at The Long Table can also have a stake and say in its future, and super importantly making all our hot meals available on a Pay-as-you-can basis so everyone can eat at The Long Table.

With so much going on, so many ingredients to pay attention too, such a big gap between our vision of an ideal future and the perilous mess of our reality, the strapline that serves us well is: FEEDING CHANGE ONE BITE AT A TIME. Every bowl of food you eat at The Long Table, every neighbour you bring, moves us ever closer to realising the vision we have for a better, more beautiful and delicious future.

JM: Can you tell us a bit about what The Long Table has achieved so far?

TH: We have learnt we are students of radical hospitality, the more we listen to each other, the more cheerfully we work, the better the food and the vibe and the more encouraged we feel. One of my favourite Long Table achievements is that [The Long Table employee] Emma Hurrell had a GWR train named after her for her epic work during the pandemic, making delicious food made from scratch, available to people through a network of Freezers of Love.

JM: What are your plans for the organisation for this year and beyond?

TH: With our sister organisations at Brimscombe Mill; The Furniture Bank, Stroud District Kids Stuff, Bike Drop, Gloucestershire House Clearances, and The Grace Network, we are working on opening a new premises in Cirencester this year, so best wishes/prayers/fingers crossed please that we get to proliferate the benefits we see here in Stroud with another community.

At The Long Table, we are opening more often, now Saturday nights too [no-booking required] and have lots of delicious and stimulating events planned. We’ve saved you a seat, [wink], and can’t wait to eat with you!

JM: what do you do when you’re not working at The Long Table?

TH: Anna and I have four ace teenage kids, they keep us busy. I have an e-bike that helps me over the hill, so my commute is my hobby. I also really enjoy and feel the benefit of being part of the Golden Valley Crossfit Community.

Three Things You Can Do Today

1) Come and eat with us. Any lunch time Tuesday – Saturday from 12 noon. The more people eat here, the more progress we see. COME! Bonus points if you bring someone who’d really appreciate a meal out.

2) Sign up for The Long Table newsletter, via our website, so we can keep you informed of what we are finding and what’s coming up. – in time if you insist (😊 ) on supporting our work, you might consider becoming a Friend.

3) Pray for us. Tell your friends. We’ve embarked on realising a vision we sense the world is hungry for and we’d love to proliferate
our work, going where we are invited such that people find purpose, fulfilment and hope by serving and eating at The Long Table.

Find out about more local Stroud Transitioneers

If you would like to share your sustainable living story, please contact Josephine on