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September 2013: Responding to Need

Taking part in our fabulous Silver Apple walk got me thinking about the changes The Food Chain has seen over such a long period of time.  We are in the process of taking a good look at all our services to ensure we are continuing to meet the needs of people living with HIV in London today. The strategy that we set out in ‘Responding to Need’ (2010-2014) is being reviewed and refreshed so that we can set out our plans for the next chapter in our story for 2014-2019. As we do this work we are paying close attention to what our service users and referrers are telling us about their changing needs.

Fewer people are experiencing acute episodes of poor health and so we are seeing a decrease in the numbers of people who need our home delivered meals on a Sunday.

Some of the changes we are learning about are very encouraging. It is great news that now only a small number of people referred to us are so unwell that they are physically unable to cook for themselves. This is in large part due to the enormous advances in medication and the excellent work of London’s HIV treatment centres.

At the same time more and more people are referred to us because they simply cannot afford to buy the groceries that will help them stay well and maintain their independence.

We have seen a significant increase in these referrals this year and our grocery service is busier than it has ever been.

We have spent over £138,000 on our grocery service to date this financial year, more than we spent in the whole of 2011/12. Donations that are made to us by individuals are vital for supporting the demand for this service. Without donations made by individuals this year we simply would not have been able to meet this demand.

We also know that social contact with other people and the gaining of new knowledge and skills about nutrition and cooking are very important aspects of the service we offer.

We have seen growing numbers of people attending our Eating Together communal lunch on Wednesdays and our Eating Positively cookery classes on Mondays. For many of our service users these services are a significant step in the direction of re-connecting with people, forming friendships and increasing confidence and independence.

Changing needs will be at the forefront of our strategic planning process in the coming months.

What we know is that throughout this process we will hold true to The Food Chain’s core purpose of feeding the fight against HIV and supporting our service users in getting well, staying well and leading independent lives. It is this that has sustained our services for 25 years and that will continue to do so as long as we are responding to need.

If you have ideas about our future direction that you would like to share it would be great to hear from you. Please do get in touch with me directly and let me know your thoughts.

The beginnings of Autumn and my well known sweet tooth led me to another pudding this month. I love apple based dishes so it was an easy choice. What with Downton Abbey back on the telly and hot custard to enjoy I’m quite happy to settle in for the duration!

Click here for our Apple Charlotte recipe.

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