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New Meal Delivery Service for People in the Greatest Need

The Food Chain exists to help people living with HIV in London access the food they need to get well, stay well and live independently.  When people face an unexpected crisis which prevents them accessing good nutrition we aim to help with the most appropriate package of short-term support, whether that be direct food provision or education – or, more often, a combination of the two.

There are many reasons why someone might be referred to The Food Chain and for most people the reasons will be multiple.  Over the last two years 73% of referrals to The Food Chain have included financial concerns, 43% were wholly or partly due to ill-health, 28% stated a lack of skills or knowledge and 24% of referrals involved a lack of motivation.

Fortunately the majority of people are in good enough health to prepare their own meals and for these households we can provide a package of nutritious groceries.  But for a potential 10% of our service users the preparation of meals is not possible at this time.  For these people, who are in the greatest need, we need to provide prepared meals alongside their fresh groceries; and we need to do this seven days a week.

In 2013 we explored the idea of expanding our existing model of delivering meals to seven days a week for the approximately six people a week who’d need it.  But we couldn’t guarantee the delivery of hot meals within an appropriate time frame across all London boroughs without expanding our number of kitchens.  We looked at the possibility of delivering frozen food produced by either The Food Chain or an external provider, but this would involve significant investment in storage and delivery vehicles which was uneconomic given the low number of meals required.

In looking for an external provider to deliver prepared meals to people living with HIV we needed to find a company that could offer a better service than we could, and that had the flexibility to deal with the changing needs of our service users. The potential provider had to be able to accommodate dietary needs (e.g. Vegetarian, Halal and Kosher), ethnic tastes (e.g. British, African regions, Indian), medical needs (e.g. soft food, allergies, high calories) and kitchen facilities (e.g. existence or not of a freezer, microwave, oven).  They should be able to offer our service users choice to increase independence and provide discreet but regular social contact.  And above all they needed to have a proven track record in delivering this type of service.

In Wiltshire Farm Foods we found an extensive range of good quality frozen meals that could be delivered at least once a week to all London postcodes. They have a history of delivering large contracts on behalf of social services and have no minimum order level.  Their drivers are trained to deliver meals to the freezer and to report back any concerns they might notice.  We are ready to begin this relationship for all new referrals where the physical preparation of food is an issue; for those without a freezer or cooking equipment we will make alternative appropriate arrangements.

We are looking forward to working with Wiltshire Farm Foods and building a relationship with them that will ensure our service users get the best range and quality of meals possible. We will be asking for feedback on the service provided and will also do ‘mystery shopping’ every so often to check that quality is maintained.  The Food Chain has wanted to provide 7 days’ worth of meals for those who need them for some years and we are embarking on this new type of service with the strong hope that the difference we make for our most vulnerable service users will be greatly increased.