As the months go by and the lockdown restrictions ease, we will be doing all we can at The Food Chain to think about, plan and prepare for a return to the face-to-face services we know so many of our service users find to be of great value to them.
Bringing people together over food is at the heart of our service and we know it brings benefits way beyond the nutritional value of the delicious plates of food that are served in our kitchen.
The social contact with others, the chance to be in a safe and welcoming space where your HIV status is not an issue, where you will be listened to and where you can say as much or as little about what is happening in your life as you wish to – these are the added benefits that make our Eating Together meals a nourishing experience for everyone involved. Service users, staff and volunteers alike all share the ambition to be back in our kitchen on Wednesdays and Saturdays serving up fantastic meals every week.
Sadly, this is not something we can make possible just yet.
Many of our service users travel a long way on public transport to get to us, many have health conditions alongside their HIV that place them at higher risk of serious illness if they catch Covid19, many feel too vulnerable to leave their homes yet, even though the government’s shielding policy has now officially come to an end. For some, their age, gender and race make them additionally vulnerable to the virus.
Our Eating Together meals bring together people from multiple households from across London, to spend time together in an indoor space. These are the conditions where it is known that the Covid19 virus has the potential to spread rapidly.
At the same time, we are still seeing new infections in the UK every day, and this number appears to be rising slowly but surely at the time of writing, just as it is in other parts of Europe and around the world.
All these factors mean that for now, we are not planning to reinstate Eating Together lunches in the Acorn House kitchen in the foreseeable future.
We do, though, believe there is an alternative service we can offer those of our service users who are particularly isolated and keen to get out and about again, as safely as possible. We are planning for some small outdoor gatherings with food provided, to take place during September. We will operate within the public health guidance available at the time regarding outdoor gatherings. We feel it is important to try new things out and see what’s possible. As they saying goes, where there’s a will there’s a way and we have the will in bucket loads – or even in picnic hamper loads! We’ll keep you posted about how this goes.
We are, of course, continuing to provide our grocery service for those who need this help. As the furlough scheme changes and comes to an end, as families are still at home needing meals throughout the summer, as benefits issues continue to cause hardship and for a range of different reasons, this part of our service remains crucial in supporting our service users to meet their day to day living needs.
The Food Chain has always aimed to respond to the most pressing needs of our service users, and we can take some pride in the fact that from the very beginning of the Covid19 crisis our service has ben reaching people who would literally have gone without food if we hadn’t provided it.
We will continue this support for as long as it is needed.