Community Cooking School, How We Help & The Good Exchange Project

We had 48 people in this evening and we all had extra jobs to do whilst setting up as we were a couple of people down.

On the menu this week we had Carrot and Sweet potato soup, Beef in Black Bean sauce with rice, Vegetable Korma, Jacket potatoes, Roasted peppers and Apricot bread and butter pudding. Jan was smiling all evening, she is very happy when she sees everyone enjoying the food.

The Korma came as a result of a training course that Jan and Sandra did this week put on and sponsored by Tesco Cookery School. The training is to teach ways of putting surplus food to good use. Supported by Jamie Oliver it is to teach 1000 community cooks around the country.

Tesco's Community Cooking School

“Tesco has been focusing on reducing food waste for over a decade. In 2009, Tesco stopped sending food to landfill and in 2013, became the first retailer to publish its food waste data. In 2016, Tesco made a commitment that no food safe for human consumption will go to waste in its operations. Since then, every week it donates 300,000 meals of surplus food to over 7,000 different community and charity groups.

The Tesco Community Cookery School with Jamie Oliver, which has been developed in partnership with FareShare, will help community groups by offering training and advice on how to prepare nutritionally balanced meals out of surplus food donations.

One of the challenges facing community cooks is how to prepare unusual or unexpected ingredients and large quantities of seasonal produce, and so using recipes designed by Jamie Oliver and Tesco’s development chefs will ensure community cooks make the most of surplus food and reduce food waste.

The community cooks will learn everything from knife skills and nutrition to recipes for versatile base sauces, which can be adapted to complement a wide variety of donated food. Training will be free and attendees will receive free cooking equipment and a folder featuring Jamie’s food surplus recipes.

Tesco and Jamie Oliver will launch the Tesco Community Cookery School with Jamie Oliver at the Goodinge Community Centre (Islington, London), one of the community kitchens putting these food donations to good use, on Thursday 24 January. The programme will then roll out across the UK throughout the year”

Sandra and Jan really enjoyed themselves and Tesco even paid for their hotel room. It was by all accounts worth while and a lot of fun.  We are so pleased we are now in a better position to pay for training (even though this turned out to be free) that will enhance all our experiences and knowledge. We were lucky to get on as all the places have now been filled.

You can read Sandra’s experience of the day here

Caring For Our Clients

When preparing for this week’s soup kitchen we arrived at 4.15pm to find two clients in the hall already. Both drunk, in this case, as often the case with alcohol – one of the men was very polite apologetic and just wanted to sleep. Having just come out of hospital after major surgery he is very very distressed and suffering from his afflictions. The other person is extremely difficult and abusive to anyone who tries to help him, he was enjoying upsetting the Salvation Army members by swearing and waving his cigarette about. He was argumentative and stubborn, recently rough sleeping due to a change in his situation he is very angry with everyone. Unfortunately any help given to him is not received positively so all the charity and statutory organisations have to work harder to support him. 

Every week we have to make a judgement call on a situation. This week was definitely no exception.  One person was best left to sleep for a bit then have a coffee,  with the help from the kindness of another client who had popped in eventually walked down to the night shelter. He needed to sleep and rest. The other man was very abusive and rude, we eventually got him to leave but it was a little worrying at one point. We did consider phoning the police but are aware how stretched they are, luckily he eventually left. Situations like this are the less fun side of our job, this is where training and experience come into play. We are very impressed how the team work together in a professional and respectful way. 

A client came in who had court on Friday morning. The client was worrying that they could not get there as they had no money to afford the traffic, so they asked Meryl for help. We will never give money to clients but we will help them when we can. One of the volunteers offered to walk down to the railway station to get a return ticket as Meryl cannot leave the session. It is wonderful that through generous donations we have the ability to help in this way. Now this person can get to court and start to improve their life and the decisions they make moving forward. This person was very eager to say how they were doing so much better and were trying very hard to keep away from bad influences and working on making better life choices. The hostel does not work for everyone but it a positive step forward for many. The staff work very hard to help people and to encourage engagement. 

The campsite is being disbanded soon. We, along with the statutory services, are working to help and support people into better living accommodation.  Regardless of the thought of people this is what is happening. Every person in the camp has different stories and needs. One has befriended a cat which is an outdoor cat. This person will not leave the cat, it would be wonderful for this person to have somewhere to live with this cat. The hostel cannot take outside cats as there are too many dogs up there already and it is possible for a cat to get in and out. With no addictions, just without a home, this person will not use the night shelter or the hostel as they love this animal.

What is the answer?  A little flat with a garden away from roads. Unfortunately without working through the system there is no chance of getting a property for this lovely person. Eventually it is likely this person will have to make the decision to give up this cat which will break their heart. It is so sad to see our clients upset. We often feel frustrated, inadequate as we cannot wave a magic wand. Rough sleepers do not always have addictions and anti social behaviour, but they do not have the ability for a deposit either. Many landlords will not take Universal Credit claimants. Plenty of people would have this lovely cat but this is not the answer for this person, this made us sad tonight. 

Council tax causes many problems for people who are on low income, statutory sick pay or benefits. Unfortunately very quickly the bills and extra charges (even bailiffs charge) mount up. We see the affect this has on people’s mental health. This for some can cause issues at work, disciplinary situations and possible job loss which makes the matter worse, their mental health and behaviour can deteriorate with the worry. Once bailiffs are instructed a debt cannot be paid over small incriminates and nothing can be arranged. Bailiffs have the debt for four months until they bounce it back.  They will do this if they cannot gain entry to the property or there is not enough to clear the debt, at this point the debt has increased by many hundreds of pounds. We unfortunately hear about these situations once it has got out of hand as many of our clients bury their head through fear. Advocacy services are very busy and we have little support in this so we will try to help where we can. Often they are unable to fill out a form let alone fight a case with the council or a bailiff company.  Experience in the field of advocacy is something we need support with and lots of it. Situations arise every week that need attention. 

Current Donations Needed

A work colleague of one of our volunteers John, from Bluebird Care came in with some food donations, Pot Noodles and other food items, people and companies are very kind. Pot Noodles are always needed. Please see our Amazon Wishlist and our how to donate page, as we are always in need of your help and support.

We are now on The Good Exchange fundraising for running costs and expansion of the Soup Kitchen. We are very grateful to have the support of Greenham Trust and the Good Exchange.  

We are so glad the snow has gone. Rough sleepers do not always have the choice to rough sleep, we must remember for some it is something that people feel safer doing. It still is not a choice, it is a fear, a fear of bills, society, conforming and not being able to cope. We have to work with people slowly, carefully, at their pace. They need to feel in control and not told what to do. When they are ready, we pick them up and help them. A busy session this evening and a positive one.