Number One before COVID-19
Number One has been a community cafe and learning space for three years. Our regular customers enjoyed the social contact along with a healthy meal. We provided a sociable space where everyone was welcomed. Workshops and peer support groups used the facility to provide activities and events.
From March 2020, the cafe closed due to COVID-19.
Repurposing Number One
As the crisis emerged the space became the local emergency hub providing a call centre and support for people who could not leave their homes. Our staff and volunteers took phone calls and delivered food parcels to over 80 households every week. As we have a good community network and links with the local authority we became the main contact to support people in need of food, prescriptions and links to services. Our cooks got back to work and cooked ready meals for delivery to families, elderly and those being shielded.
Over the 3 months of lockdown we may have been the only contact with some people. The food delivery service was found to be the only social contact some people had every week. The crisis highlighted the issue of food insecurity which had been hidden from view in our community. Families who could not afford to feed their children due to low income; elderly who rely on carers to prepare their meals; people who rely on volunteers to help them buy food. We realise that the issue is not new, but as support networks were stopped overnight it highlighted the fragility of the present system. We would like to help people become more resilient and less reliant on emergency support.
Moving on - Number One, The Village Shoppie
Moving forward, the cafe will be no more, however we will continue to be a supplier of healthy home cooked meals alongside our new project which will be a community green grocer and food pantry. The village shoppie will be open to everyone in the community but those who need it most will get additional support from the team to reduce their weekly shopping costs. There are four elements to the new Number One, taking people on a food journey from a personal crisis to being self-sufficient.
The Food Pantry
The food pantry is a type of co-operative shopping where the customers become a member for a nominal fee. The food is supplied by the Fareshare scheme, where supermarkets donate produce that is almost out of date. There is no restriction on who can become a member. Members can 'purchase' a supply of goods every week from the store for a set fee of £2. This will reduce their weekly cost of essential shopping by as much as £20. As the pantry is open to anyone it will become normal to do a bargain hunt to see what has been delivered every week. Unlike a food bank, the pantry is a place where you can choose what you need, when you need it, just like a normal shop.
The Community Green Grocer
The green grocer concept has arisen as we became a delivery point for a vegetable supplier. They sold vegetable boxes online and we delivered to people who were shielding. The fresh produce is higher quality and cheaper than supermarkets. We will continue to offer the delivery service and also sell the fruit and vegetable as a shop which will provide an ongoing income. The town no longer has a local green grocer so the novelty of buying small unpacked items is appealing to our regular customers. The produce will also be provided to the pantry members as part of their weekly shop.
Ready Meal Service
Our home cooked ready meals have become popular with some of our previous customers who are collecting them as they come out of the oven. Normally a weeks supply of frozen meals will be delivered. This service will develop to suit the different customers, such as the elderly and alternatives to school meals. Having a take away meal is a treat for most people, but normally too expensive for many. Our meals will be available for £2 a portion or free to anyone in crisis. The meals are prepared by our own team of cooks from produce which is donated by supermarkets. When there is no regular supply of ingredients we purchase them from local producers.
Confidence to Cook
As people become more confident and want to become self-sufficient we will offer a free cooking course to help them use cheaper ingredients to make healthy meals. The course was developed by NHS Grampian and we have used the programme previously with positive outcomes. Our tutors are able to be creative with whatever ingredients are available to make affordable appetising meals. Our experience is that it takes time to gain confidence in cooking, it is a skill which has been lost due to the ease of buying processed meals. It has been proven that the cooking and eating meals from scratch improves mental and physical wellbeing.
COVID-19 has been a crisis we will never forget. Fortunately no-one lost their life in our town but many people suffered during the lockdown period. People have lost jobs, people have been isolated and children have lost months of their education. We are now seeing the after effects of lost income and loneliness. Rather than reducing our service we now have more people requiring support to access food. The social care services and Citizen's Advice Bureau are referring new customers to the service every week.