Volunteering has highlighted food and access inequality in a way that I’d never considered before

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June 25, 2020
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Take me back to the blog

It’s Volunteer’s Week and each day one of our amazing volunteers will share their experience of volunteering with Nunhead Knocks.

Honorary SE15-er Paddy Holt helped set up NunUnFed, Nunhead Knocks’ cooked meals delivery service, while on furlough from his day job.

Relocating for lockdown

“I don’t actually live in Nunhead or Peckham (my flat's in Kennington) but, straight after lockdown was announced, I drove to my girlfriend's near Queens Road Peckham to hunker down.

“I work for Blackbird Bakery, and we closed the next day. I then had two days off and, by the third, I started feeling a bit purposeless. My girlfriend, Lauren, was still working full-time and sent me an Instragram post advertising an executive-assistant role for Nunhead Knocks - a gentle ‘nudge’ for me to get busy doing something!

“Initially, my job was to minute the Committee meetings, which were every day at that point. One of our initial aims was to set up a food programme to cook meals for people having to self-isolate and, due to my experience in hospitality, I volunteered to lead it.

How we made NunUnFed a reality

“The starting point was having the brilliant Anne Hargreaves, who has experience from programmes like FoodCycle, on board to lead the groundwork. My job was to pull together a team and source a professionally registered kitchens for her.

“We came in luck when Juliette Baptiste-Kelly, who caters for movie sets, offered her expertise and her kitchen (where she runs her own business from) to us. Another fantastic volunteer, Anna-Lou Manca, connected us with the Salvation Army, who kindly allowed us to use their kitchen for a month before we decided to relocate to Anna-Lou’s home kitchen. As we started fulfilling more and more requests, we moved out of Juliette’s Kitchen to the Ivy House where we have more space to meet demand – to date we’ve cooked just under 1000 meals!

“My job is to make sure that all food requests are appropriately taken care of, which often come from zone coordinators or referrals from Southwark Council and Age UK. If a food parcel is needed,  I ensure this is put together at the Green or, if it’s a cooked meal, I gather all the relevant info, including dietary needs, and liaise with Anne who decides what we’re cooking every week with Juliette. I then get in touch with Andy, who manages a network of volunteer drivers, to schedule deliveries.

Paddy at the Ivy House

What we cook and who we’re doing it for

“What we cook depends entirely on what we can get. We receive a delivery from Southwark council every Thursday, ready for cooking on Friday morning. In the beginning, we made a lot of cottage and shepherds pies as we were inundated with potatoes! However, since Nunhead Knocks started taking food donations six weeks ago, the contributions have massively supplemented NunUnFed.

“We only cook vegetarian food as it is easier to manage from a health and safety perspective. Quite understandably we’ve been asked to cook meat but, all in all, there’s been a really positive reception, with people saying lovely things about the food. For example, we deliver five meals a week to a youth group and the head said it was the first time the kids had eaten veggie food and that they loved how it made them feel!

“I’ve also really enjoyed tailoring the support we offer to meet specific needs. For example, one woman we’ve been helping is visually impaired so can’t cook and, before lockdown, got her meals from the same place every day for ten years. She wasn’t keen on the meals we provided, so we built up a network of six volunteers to bring her food she enjoys. Everyone on the rota exchange bits and pieces of information about what she likes, right down to how she prefers her cheese cut in a salad. It’s been amazing to see her mood and spirit lift. The meal service wasn’t right for her and the community rallied, creating something more personal.

Food and access inequality must continue to be addressed

“Being involved with Nunhead Knocks has highlighted food and access inequality in a way that I’d never considered before. When things are safer, there will still be many people who need help. However, I’ve met so many people who have loved the opportunity to help their neighbours and there will be an appetite to continue. I think people will be more on the lookout for those who are struggling and hopefully people who are struggling will feel more confident in asking for help.”

 

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