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Celebrating Our Unique Service

On 25 December 1988, meals were delivered to people living with HIV via The Food Chain for the first time. On 30 March 2014, after over a quarter-of-a-century of weekly meals lovingly prepared and delivered by hundreds of dedicated volunteers, the Sunday meal service came to end.

 

Supervisors, Kitchen Assistants, Lead Cooks, Navigators and Drivers gathered at our kitchens as they have done every Sunday morning for many years and prepared for service. Lids were labelled, foils counted and hot and cold boxes loaded into cars. Although the day was tinged with sadness at something very special ending, there was also a celebratory feel. Volunteers at our East Dulwich kitchen enjoyed a breakfast hamper of goodies to see them on their way, while Kentish Town and King’s Cross kitchens had an authentic tiramisu prepared by an Italian chef to enjoy. Beef casserole, fish escovitch, green lentil and coconut curry, carrot cake and fruit salad – a Food Chain favourite - were prepared in good spirits by our final Sunday volunteers.

All three kitchens operated with the usual streamlined efficiency that’s become a trademark of the Sunday Meal service. We’re extremely proud of all our volunteers, past and present, who have delivered the service so efficiently and with great professionalism, care and love.

The reason the volunteer Sunday meal service has come to an end is because we now receive a low number of referrals for people living with HIV in acute ill-health, and that statement alone is reason to be grateful, particularly so if we compare to how it was to live with HIV ten, fifteen or twenty years ago. There is still no cure for HIV, but people living with the virus are increasingly leading longer, healthier, more independent lives, testament to how far leading researchers, dietitans and health specialists have come in terms of managing the virus.

For this smaller number of people who remain in great need because of acute ill health we will now be providing 7 days’ worth of meals each week via an external company that is able to deliver meals to households in the whole of London. It has been a long held ambition for The Food Chain to meet this need throughout the week and although we are sad that we are not able to run this as a volunteer service, we are pleased to be offering a greater level of nutrition support to those in the greatest need.

We will also be developing new services for the week ends in the coming year. Service users will be able to attend an Eating Together shared meal initially at our Acorn House kitchen. All our other services will continue as normal and people will receive grocery hampers, attend Eating Positively nutrition and cookery classes and come along to the Wednesday Eating Together sessions.

The volunteer Sunday meal service is perhaps what The Food Chain has been most well-known for since our founding in 1988; providing relief through nutrition for people living with HIV at times of acute ill-health. We now look ahead to the future confident that we will continue to meet the changing needs of our service users in new ways.