This week we’re delighted to be taking part in Meals on Wheels Week 2020.
Organised by the National Association for Care Catering (NACC), this week is a chance to celebrate the work of frontline Meals on Wheels services across the country and to thank everyone involved. This year’s theme is Meals on Wheels Heroes and at The Bevy we certainly know a few of those!
When The Bevy closed to the public during the Covid-19 lockdown back in March, a team of our dedicated volunteers and staff decided they would cook and deliver hot meals 3 times a week to ensure that none of the elderly attendees of our lunch clubs went hungry.
Bevy Meals on Wheels began three days after the pub closed, delivering healthy, nourishing food to our seniors, some of them amongst the most vulnerable members of our community.
We knew that not only would Meals on Wheels provide their dinner while they stay safe indoors, but also the chance for our team to check that everybody was okay, and to show our lunch clubbers a friendly face and socially distanced chat to break up the boredom of yet another day under quarantine.
We have now dished out over 6,000 meals and are still serving over 100 hot dinners each week to people in our community of Moulsecoomb and Bevendean. The extent to which this will increase now that the November lockdown has been announced is yet to be seen but rest assured we will be doing all we can to keep people supplied with warm, nourishing dinners.
As the UK’s only community owned pub on a housing estate, it has been only natural for us to move quickly and make this happen. We’re more than a pub, this is what we do.
Read on for the story of Bevy Meals on Wheels, (or BMW as it's become affectionately known) and read our case study and those of many other inspiring organisations on the NACC website.
From lunch clubs to home delivery
Our weekly lunch clubs, known as Bridge The Gap and Friday Friends, plus the Dementia Café had become important parts of people’s lives, providing companionship, activities and a hearty meal to elderly local people on a regular basis.
When the lockdown began and we launched Bevy Meals on Wheels, we worked closely with local schools, churches and community organisations to develop a combined community response and make sure help was given to all who needed it. The deliveries expanded to reach local families, people who were shielding, and as word got out the amount we were serving continued to grow.
After 1,500 meals had been delivered, BMW coordinator Helen Jones reflected on how it had all kicked off:
“Being The Bevy, with our connections into the local community and our established kitchen and relationship with FareShare we were able to hit the ground running. Running two weekly Lunch Clubs and a Dementia club we were well aware of the existing social isolation and loneliness among local seniors. So we did a ring around to see who would like a meal during the lockdown period, especially since over 70’s had been advised to stay indoors and maintain social distance.
We quickly gained more ‘customers’ as the word got around and now have a more diverse group of local residents on our delivery lists. As well as our ‘known seniors’ we are serving individuals and families with health and financial issues, some of whom have self-referred and others have come to us via our links to the local schools, church and be-friending services. We’re serving an average of 150 meals a week now over three days.
We’re making social contact at a safe distance and finding out what people need as well as providing a little bit of structure and connection to the outside world and letting people know that they are cared about.”
Most of the meals were made with surplus food which would otherwise have gone to waste, supplied to us by the local branch of the charity FareShare. Local academy BACA made their superb catering facilities and a professional chef available to us and worked with our Community Chef Carly to cook, chill and freeze hundreds of meals for people to reheat at home. Other donations came from our volunteers, including delicious puddings every week from the Friday Friends and later, jigsaw puzzles thanks to a donation from the Bring Joy Foundation.
Our customers were delighted:
“What a lovely, lovely meal. Please thank the chef and everyone and the delivery lady and you. And the strawberries were lovely, you’re doing a great job thank you very much.”
“The meals have been a weight off my mind. My sister loves these hot meals and she is eating them. It’s been a life saver and a godsend for her and for us. Thank you for everything you‘re doing.”
“The food is absolutely lovely, we really appreciate it. It’s become their highlight of the day and it also helps us keep track of the days and weeks because it’s easy to get lost.”
Here’s a peek behind the scenes at Bevy Meals on Wheels by our volunteer Ayami:
The Bevy Meals on Wheels were a lifeline to many but nothing replaces face-to-face socialising. So as lockdown restrictions eased we launched our Chatterboxes club. This means that some of the lunch clubbers get to enjoy their usual Meals on Wheels dinner in the pub so they can get out for some fresh air and a chat. When the weather is fine it also means they can sit and enjoy the Bevy pub garden that has been so beautifully tended and cared for by a team of wonderful volunteers throughout the pandemic.
We run this in partnership with Gladrags, a local charity which provides costumes and educational resources to community groups and schools. The sessions are held on Wednesday lunchtimes with a limited number of people in attendance to ensure adequate social distance. The Gladrags team have encouraged people to record their memories of lockdown for the covid stories blog they have set up and entertainment is put on each week, provided by local musicians and community groups.
Taking action on Child Food Poverty
Our Meals on Wheels were also a lifeline to many families during the October half-term. With little support from the government for families who receive free school meals in term time, communities had to make their own provisions to make sure no child went hungry. We supplied hot lunches to up to 40 children a day who were taking part in the Brighton Table Tennis Club half-term scheme at Moulsecoomb Primary School.
In the UK government’s 2019 Indices of Deprivation report, areas of Moulsecoomb and Bevendean were shown to be within the ten per cent most deprived areas in Britain. Food poverty in our part of town is widespread and frightening. Families who were already struggling before have been having an even harder time making ends meet during the pandemic. If you’d like to support the campaign to End Child Food Poverty there is an online petition demanding that the government takes action.
You can see a video about the Brighton Table Tennnis Club at Moulsecoomb School, featuring lunch by The Bevy, here.
A huge outpouring of support
One major concern when we launched Bevy Meals on Wheels was how we would be able to afford it. We knew that there would be a massive need to get food to vulnerable people and combat social isolation but weren’t sure where the funds would be coming from. But once we told people what we were doing we were overwhelmed with the response. It has been extraordinary to see the generosity of so many people who gave their hard earned money through the donate page on our website.
We were also incredibly grateful for support from foundations, trusts and other groups including Chalk Cliff Trust, Sussex Community Foundation, Sussex Lions, Rotary Club, the Masons, Andrew Goodall and the Homity Trust and more recently Hall and Woodhouse. Our landlord, the East Brighton Trust has been a major supporter of the Bevy project since the beginning and again we were very grateful for their support in this challenging time.
Another area where community spirit shone through was when it came to our volunteers. We have been so grateful for the amazing volunteers who gave (and continue to give) their time so generously to make sure the food gets to those who need it. From helping in the kitchen to delivering food there is always plenty to do.
Our volunteers have been incredible and there’s never been a dull moment... they’ve made new friends, gained new skills, learned a multitude of courgette recipes and one was even serenaded whilst out on her deliveries!
Here’s what some of them said about the experience:
“I just did my first delivery with the Bevy, and felt like I’d fallen straight into such a loving community. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to be part of this, and I’m already looking forward to my next shift!”
“I’ve loved being part of the Bevy Meals on Wheels. It’s been amazing to feel useful in a small way during lockdown. I hope that I can stay involved beyond Meals on Wheels in some way.”
Being part of the Bevy Meals on Wheels team has been the treasured highlight of this very strange and challenging year. It’s provided a much needed dose of purpose and hope in these strange times.
Bevy Meals on Wheels will continue as long as people in our community need it, and that looks to be for the foreseeable future. We are proud to say that the next steps will involve working with St. John's, a specialist college for young people with complex learning disabilities. Starting this week learners from the college will be coming to our community kitchen to learn catering skills whilst they prepare hot lunches. A chef and teaching assistant will be on hand to support the young people as they get involved in all aspects of BMW – from ordering supplies and planning recipes to cooking and delivering the meals. We’ll work with the St John’s team to create a curriculum and build a traineeship, giving young people skills, confidence and a recognised qualification.
This has been made possible thanks to funding from the Social Enterprise Support Fund, distributed by UnLtd. Thanks to anyone who has played National Lottery for helping us on this journey. We’re really looking forward to this partnership and thrilled to be launching it during Meals on Wheels week 2020.
More than a pub
The last few months have been one hell of a ride to say the least and Meals on Wheels week gives us a good opportunity to reflect on all that our team and partners have achieved. We’re proud of how we’ve worked together through a global pandemic to make the most of the huge spirit in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean and make sure no one in our community is forgotten.
And all this happened whilst we simultaneously refurbished the pub, were nominated once again for a British pub award, started up a Bevy Vets football team, put on a socially-distanced family fun day, hosted a community bunting marathon and became part of a major art exhibition!
Now that’s what we call more than a pub.
Please support us
We urgently need funding to continue our Meals on Wheels service and ensure it remains free to anyone who needs it.
If you’d like to support The Bevy Meals on Wheels throughout the second wave of this incredibly challenging time and beyond, every donation makes a difference.
Anything you can spare enables us to provide hot dinners to those who can’t otherwise afford them and secure the future of the pub – head to our donate page to pledge your support. Thank you.
If you live in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean and would like to receive our Meals on Wheels, or know someone who would, please give us a ring on 01273 281009.