If this pandemic has proven anything, it’s the sheer resourcefulness and selflessness that communities have shown in the face of unfamiliar adversity.
In March, as the whole nation faced a shared sense of fear and uncertainty of the true scale of the pandemic, a significant number of food and drink business owners and their staff pulled together to use their kitchens and catering skills to not only feed, but look-out for those in their community who needed it most. Across the YO postcode, many initiatives to help feed the vulnerable and the NHS were formed in the early stages of lockdown, and still continue as restrictions begin to ease; the true significance of the small acts of kindness within these initiatives is becoming increasingly more evident, as we can now comprehend just how many people they have helped, and continue to help.
The Supper Collective, an initiative formed by Pig and Pastry cafe in Bishopthorpe, York, is a prime example of how quickly a raft of people could come together to put the needs of others first.
Steve Holding, owner of Pig and Pastry said: “It all started as we were approaching lockdown, and as times became uncertain and scary. Many elderly and vulnerable people had already been told to self-isolate ahead of the rest of us and I was worried about the people that lived on their own in the area initially. The people that came to the cafe for their daily dose of human interaction were the people I feared would struggle to find help, especially if they were ordinarily unknown to the services.
“So, using social media to begin with, we prompted people to check on anyone who lived alone or was otherwise vulnerable, and if they needed a meal we welcomed them to come and pick one up from the cafe, free of charge.”
As the country was soon put into lockdown, and the demand for support for vulnerable community members grew, the small team at Pig & Pastry feared that they may have taken on something larger than what they were able to carry out. However, after Steve was made aware of how members of his community were struggling, he soon made arrangements with the council to allow the cafe to take on more orders, and even arrange a group of cycle couriers who gave up their time for free.
As the word spread across York, independent eateries flocked to play their part, Skosh’s Neil Bentinck cooked and prepared meals, and Haxby Bakers’ Tina Clayton provided the bread. The Pig & Pastry then quickly turned into a hub where meals were brought in from over thirteen various York cafes and restaurants, to then be delivered to homes across the local area.
As both the demand and supply grew tenfold, Steve and the core team at Pig & Pastry began receiving even more referrals of support.
Steve said: “We had a great team of ex-social workers manning the phones and emails, so not only could they refer them to us for feeding, they were able to signpost people to the right services if they felt that they needed extra help. We also had a really amazing crowd-funder and even the National Lottery awarded us £10k.
“We were quickly providing 1,300 meals a week to the NHS (50 per day), the homeless shelter (25 per day) and around 100 meals per day were delivered to the doorsteps of the vulnerable around the city of York by our new expanded team of delivery cyclists and Andy of 659 taxis.”
As lockdown restrictions began to ease, and the vulnerable were able to receive support from friends and family once again, the Supper Collective began to wind down, but continued to produce 200 meals per week to be delivered to the Tang Hall area.
And Pig and Pastry’s intentions to continue supporting their community does not end there; the team have saved funds in the event of a second lockdown, as well as a number of community led ideas which would help combat loneliness and hunger.
Steve said: “Sadly, they’re the two main things that we discovered from this project and even sadder, these were not always results of the pandemic, these are more prevalent in society that we think. And in areas that you wouldn’t think that loneliness and hunger could go un-noticed.
“We still get thank you cards now. Not just for the food, but for the daily wave and cheery hello at the gates and doorsteps from the delivery volunteers. It’s the daily human interaction and the knowing that someone cares which was appreciated as much as the free nutritious daily meal that meant so much to so many.”
The businesses and organisations that took part in the Supper Collective and help to connect their community throughout lockdown are as follows: List of businesses involved: Skosh, The Chopping Block, Dough Eyed Pizza, Source, Brew & Brownie, Hog & Apple, Whippet Inn, Rattle Owl, Pig & Pastry, Parlour Made, Daughter Cafe, Sketch by Origin, Choose 2 Youth Cafe, York Collective, Green Link Couriers as well as around 80 amazing volunteers.
As the market town of Pickering fell quiet as a result of a less tourism in lockdown, another community-based initiative put the town back on the map. Victor Buchanan, owner of The White Swan, along with the help of Head Chef, Darren Clemmit, found a new purpose for their kitchen and catering skills. The Sunday Lunch delivery service began shortly after the White Swan was forced to close; using their tight-knit team of kitchen staff, as well as deliveries carried out by Victor, the team were able to use the surplus made from the Sunday Lunch deliveries to put towards funding meals for NHS staff.
The incentive to begin supplying meals for NHS staff stemmed from Victor being made aware of a lack of nutritious food available to staff in local hospitals. With help from Pickering’s Feast Café, the combined efforts of the team saw them produce 100 meals per week for York and Scarborough hospital.
Despite lockdown having eased, and less pressure on the NHS, Victor and his team are still supplying meals to those within the community who are shielding, and are keen to further develop the supply of nutritious meals to hospitals.
Victor said: “We’re really hoping to use what we’ve done already, but to develop it so that it can have a real impact on the quality and nourishment of the food available in hospitals, to both staff and patients.”
But the White Swan’s efforts to give back to those in the NHS, who have seen the pandemic from the front line, do not end there. In the new initiative “Holidays for Heroes”, The White Swan hopes to welcome 200 NHS staff members to have a well-deserved overnight stay at the hotel.
To enable them to provide all 200 overnight stays, the White Swan are hoping to reach a target of £6000; having so far reached almost £2500, the fundraising campaign is still going strong and can be found through their gofundme.
Victor added: “This is our way of saying thank you to our front-line NHS and Emergency Service workers, so they have a chance to put their feet up and be cared for by our team. We will provide the bedrooms and subsidise the food and drinks but if you would like to help us that would be amazing; our target is to raise £30 for every stay.”
In Scarborough, a similar initiative was formed by another group of likeminded individuals; Community Kitchen Scarborough was formed by Martyn Hyde and his husband Stephen Dinardo, owners of Eat Me Cafe.
With their intentions set on supporting their community, Martyn and Stephen were quick to act as the prospect of a national lockdown became progressively more likely.
Martyn Hyde said: “We wanted to use our newly-found spare time to give back to the community that has supported us so much over the years.”
And that is exactly what they did. Using Scarborough’s tight-knit community of independent businesses, the pair called upon owners and staff to deliver pre-cooked meals for reheating as well as boxes of ingredients for the vulnerable members of Scarborough’s community.
Koda Coffee was one of the many businesses to play a part, owner Reece Wilde said: “Before we even really knew what the project was, a team was quickly put together of amazing people.
“My role throughout was to respond to people’s questions and queries on the Facebook page and to help direct them to our referral team who would then set them up to receive their meals and food packages.
Reece added: “It was an honour to play a part in this project, and it proved to be a crucial lifeline to a lot of vulnerable and isolated people in the area.”
Since the beginning of lockdown, Community Kitchen Scarborough prepared and delivered meals to Scarborough Hospital’s ICU, the Salvation Army, the Ambulance Service, Cross Lane Hospital, the Ellis Centre, the Rainbow Centre, Eastfield Community Hub and Overdale School, as well as many members of the community in need.
By the time the Community Kitchen Scarborough project had come to an end on July 3rrd, the team were able to serve 4653 meals in total.
Martyn Hyde said: “We want to say an enormous thank you to everyone who has supported or donated to the Kitchen, either financially or emotionally. It’s been a hard, but rewarding 10 weeks. Thank you each and every one.”
It goes without saying that the selflessness and compassion shown by all who helped to make the Community Kitchen project work will be a beacon of hope for countless people for many years to come; along with Eat Me Café’s Martyn and Stephen, and Koda Coffee’s Reece Wilde, the rest of the Community Kitchen team is: Simon and Julie Boddy, Boddy’s, of Bar Street and North Street, Andy Walker, Espresso Yourself and The Cow Shed, Philip Akrill, The Green Room Brasserie, Reece Wilde, Koda Coffee, Jim Grieve, Scarborough Digital, Georgie Samuels, Racheal Drew, Claire Robinson and Janet Deacon, with support from Relish Café, Love Brew Café and the Stephen Joseph Theatre.
Further up the coast at Whitby’s The Blitz café, owners Tim and Julie Horton put their kitchen to the best use, with the help of Head Chef Lee Shewan as well as his wife Sarah and daughter Molly, together the whole team worked together under exceptional circumstances to prepare and deliver hot and cold meals to the NHS staff at Whitby Hospital.
In their sixth week of preparing meals for the NHS, Blitz café had cooked and delivered over 2000 meals and over 400 home-made cakes and biscuits.
Owners of the Blitz café said: We as a small business are proud to be able to show support for our amazing local NHS staff who continue to do us proud with their never-ending dedication to the people of Whitby.”
Malton Cookery School saw the lockdown as an opportunity to create an initiative to cook and distribute food to those in the Malton community who are vulnerable, elderly, housebound, as well as to NHS staff.
The “Made in Malton” meals were produced weekly, and with thanks to local charity the Malton Lions, the meals were delivered directly to the vulnerable and those in isolation.
Gilly Robinson said “The model we have created here in Malton is hopefully going to be replicated right across Ryedale. The Ryedale Volunteer Network intend to set up a similar project in Pickering next and they are looking for other chefs with access to commercial kitchens to expand the whole concept. We are so grateful for the effort being put in by our NHS workers so, as well as helping to sustain the local community, we are delighted to offer this nutritious food to the frontline workers as a small token of our appreciation.”