HUNDREDS of freshly-cooked meals will continue to wing their way to pensioners thanks to a partnership between Dorset Community Foundation and BCP Council.
The community foundation has distributed £80,000 of the council’s Winter Support funding to 14 food projects across the area through its Dorset Coronavirus Community Fund. Among the recipients is The Friendly Food Project, which has been awarded £5,970 to buy a van and temperature-resistent packaging to transport the meals around Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch.
The meals are cooked at the St Phillips Church Hall in West Howe and delivered to pensioners who had been attendeding the project’s lunch clubs in Portland, Wimborne and Poole and Meet, Cook and Eat sessions in community centres and church halls across the area.
Founder Tony Gibbons said: “We deliver 350 a week so the van will be a big help,” he said. “The need will still be there even after lockdown because some of the older people have been indoors for so long now and are still worried about what is going on. It will take months for them to get back.
“Food shopping is still difficult for many so to get a fresh meal delivered is great for them. One of the most important things about that is that our volunteers who deliver have got time to have a chat. That human contact is just as important as the food and it might be the only face they see that day.”
We couldn’t have got to this point without the community foundation’s grants because we wouldn’t have had the profile or the opportunity to see if we could make it work. We are very grateful for the support.
The funding is the sixth grant the club has received from the community foundation during the pandemic after receiving more than £28,000 to deliver Cookboxes to low-income families who were missing out on free school meals during the lockdowns. The boxes are full of ingredients and recipes, which are accompanied by a link to an instructional YouTube video made by one of the group’s six part-time tutors.
The boxes were an extension of the club’s normal activity, family cookery workshops aimed at encouraging pre-school and primary aged youngsters to cook with their families.
“We started with 16 Cookboxes on the Townsend estate in May and by the end of July we had delivered nearly 5,000 to more than 250 families all over the area. It just exploded because we were focusing on families who were locked in and many were losing free school meals,’ said Mr Gibbons.
The cookery workshops are advertised on the club’s Facebook page and held in venues such as Townsend Community Centre, the URC and The Spire Centre in Poole or the Leigh Park Community Centre in Wimborne.
“We aim at kids because they are the next generation, we’ve already lost three generations of mums who don’t know how to cook,” said Mr Gibbons, who at 82 shows no sign on slowing down with the club he founded seven years ago. The success if the Cookboxes was a major factor in Mr Gibbons being awarded the National Lottery Award for Education last year.
“We do some cooking through the morning and then have lunch together, when we talk about what we did, what we’ve learnt from it and what we want to do next week. Our whole mission is about getting kids to like food, to be able to cook it to some degree but most of all to be able to respect it. When you teach someone who has never made an omelette before, you can see the reaction when it tastes nice and, wow, there’s this joy and sense of achievement.”
He said the funding has been vital in the group’s success. “We couldn’t have done any of this and helped so many people without the grants from Dorset Community Foundation,” he said. “All we’ve wanted to do is get young people to cook more healthy food and inspire them.”
The Cookbox project has been such an unexpected success Dorset Council has decided to fund it to feed youngsters entitled to free school meals over the holidays this year. It will trial 1,400 boxes at Easter and then send out 8,500 over the summer.
Said Mr Gibbons: “We are working with them on the recipes and making the videos to accompany the boxes. It is absolutely brilliant for us because it gets kids cooking their own lunches all over Dorset.
“We couldn’t have got to this point without the community foundation’s grants because we wouldn’t have had the profile or the opportunity to see if we could make it work. We are very grateful for the support.”
Dorset Community Foundation Director Grant Robson said: “It is fantastic to team up with BCP Council to help groupsl like The Friendly Food Club, who do an incredible job in inspiring young people and feeding so many others.”