Anna had just started Kinship Carers Cooking Club to help local families when lockdown came into force. Unsure how to continue helping the community, she teamed up with Nunhead Knocks and has been working with a team to serve up hundreds of meals to carers and vulnerable people in the area.
At the end of last year I started Kinship Carers Cooking Club, which was aimed at supporting kinship carers and the children they look after. These are the people who come forward to look after a child who is at risk of going into long-term foster care, or being adopted outside the family. Lots of grandmothers, aunts and uncles, as well as family friends and godparents.
There is not a lot of awareness of this issue, but there are officially at least 300,000 kinship carers across the UK – probably a lot more to be honest – and there are loads in Southwark. They face a lot of challenges and have very little support.
I wanted to create a service in the community for them, so I started this group. Prior to lockdown we were getting together every week on a Thursday and cooking a meal from scratch all together with children and carers.
I have a catering company, Accidentally Healthy, and that's how I founded the group because I reinvest the majority of the profits from that into the community. We had also been supporting some of the carers to get a food safety qualification so they could get back into employment or work with Accidentally Healthy on catering jobs.
However, in mid-March I decided to shut it down just before full lockdown came into force. I was gutted because I had just got started and it was going really well, and I wanted to keep supporting these families because I knew it would be particularly hard on them.
After initially working with the Salvation Army I reached out to Nunhead Knocks, initially just to volunteer to be honest, but then we saw a chance to collaborate. I had all the carers and their details but I didn't have the capacity to cook and deliver food to all those people. They had all the volunteers and access to big community kitchens but they weren't sure how to access all the people who needed the service. So it has worked out really nicely.
We cook about 55 every week for carers and their children, and about 100 a week including vulnerable people through the entire Nunhead Knocks community. We have done over 1000 meals altogether. It has been great, and I have had some really great feedback from carers who have said this has really helped.
Ingredients for 4 to 6 people:
400g punnet of mushrooms (or you can use tinned)
2 sticks of celery
3 cloves of garlic
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato concentrate
Fresh or dried herbs, preferably basil or rosemary, but thyme or oregano or mixed dried herbs also work
200g grated cheddar
100g other cheese of your choice; try to go for a creamier, softer cheese like smoked scamorza or mozzarella, or even cream cheese
1kg short pasta, e.g. penne, conchiglie or fusilli
Committee members Claire, Paddy and Charlie look back on their time in the group and how it should be structured in the future.
Residents of Nunhead and Peckham share how lockdown impacted their mental health.