Keeping people fed was a top priority at the start of the lockdown, but providing people with food isn’t enough to make sure they don’t go hungry.
“There was lots of work going on in the community to provide support to people who were having to self isolate or were not able to get out,” said Marvin Molloy of Community Ventures in Stoke-on-Trent.
“But we were finding that some of the food that was being dropped off wasn’t suitable for some people. They were getting food delivered, but they weren’t eating it so they were going hungry,” he said.
Community Ventures came up with a more appropriate solution for those with dietary requirements. The aim was to make sure people who were becoming increasingly vulnerable and facing real issues in accessing healthy foods and meals had the support to stay strong and safe during this challenging time.
Meal prep service
“We thought, let’s see if we can provide a meal prep service, but with healthy meals that are more suitable for everybody, and that would suit their needs,” said Marvin.
They received some emergency Covid-19 funding from the Staffordshire Community Foundation to provide 250 meals. Which meant they were able to provide meals for 15 households for a number of weeks.
“We got the funding on the Wednesday and by the Saturday, all 15 spaces were taken,” said Marvin, highlighting the popularity – and need – of the service.
Working with Nutribox, which offers meal prep service to gym enthusiasts or people who are trying to lose weight or achieve a goal, they were able to tailor traditional dishes. They delivered healthy fish pies, cottage pies, spag bol, chicken dinners, and the like.
“We would provide them with five different meals,” said Marvin. “We’d drop off three on a Monday morning, and then two more on a Thursday morning.
“15 people were getting five meals a week – one meal a day – but it was quite a sizeable meal, so some of them were able to cut their meal in two and have a dinner and tea off it.”
The feedback they had was great. Here are some Community Ventures collected:
The residents who received their meals were all really grateful for the service and they said “they felt lucky to have been looked after so well.” They commented that “the meals were delicious and that they looked forward to eating them every day.” They appreciated their conversations at their steps with Chris who also “loved hearing and seeing the benefits the Cooking in the Community project had been having on them.”
But there was an added benefit that went beyond the food.
Nutribox chef Christopher Bestwick, freshly prepared and delivered the meals to the doors of the residents.
“Chris enjoyed going out into the community. He said the project opened his eyes. He didn’t realise how lonely and vulnerable different people are. And also just being somebody at the door, having a conversation, having a chat with the people who weren’t getting out that much – that was very much appreciated, too,” said Marvin.
Chris said: “This project opened my eyes to things that I don’t see in my everyday life. People who are alone, people who are vulnerable and people who just needed a good deed during an unprecedented time.”
Interaction, this time via video, also played a part in another aspect of the Stoke food box project. Families had a box of ingredients dropped at their doorstep.
“They would receive the ingredients and chef Chris would show them how to cook it,” said Marvin. “Then they could cook a meal for the family and enjoy a healthy meal together. With people spending a lot of time together in the household, it was another activity to bring the family together and also helped to encourage healthy eating in the community,” said Marvin.
Great, in a negative time
“It’s been a great little project. In a negative time it’s good to be doing something like that and being able to help with what was greatly appreciated. ”
The approach and connection with people has also been valuable.
“Our Community Ventures teams previously worked on a project called My Health Matters and one of the objectives was to reduce obesity and healthy eating is a key part of that. I think this project, being able to do these videos and being able to provide ingredients – in hindsight it would have been brilliant if we could have been doing that type of thing back then,” he said.
A bit different
“A lot’s been done to feed the community in Stoke-on-Trent by different organisations other than ourselves, but what we were able to do here was a little bit different and more catered to the need of the most vulnerable and at risk, so we’re happy.
“Hopefully, it’s something we can run out long term to improve health in the community, help the health of the vulnerable and make sure that we are supporting them to beat this disease – or any disease – and to stay healthy.
Bringing people together
“Historically, I’ve done a lot of cooking sessions in the community and it always brings people together, it always gets smiles on faces. When you ask people to try things that they might not usually try, you get a bit of fun, you get a laugh… it’s always great!
“The people who use this service, they would very much like it to continue, just to help them with their health. Some people are not able to stand over a cooker. And this service supports those people.”