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12 weeks of good food

13 years ago, we set out to feed everybody good fresh food. 13 years on, we have never wavered. Amid panic buying, stock shortages and social distancing, good, fresh food has remained our priority and getting it out to our most vulnerable is our aim.

As the pandemic started to encroach on life as we know it, and talks of lockdown became a reality, requests came flooding in. With meals on wheels being a distant memory in the minds of many we suddenly had a huge problem on our hands: thousands advised not to leave their homes and no door to door delivery service of nutritious, good food.

Needless to say, this was an opportunity for us to set up and deliver the biggest fresh food aid service we have ever attempted. The fresh food-aid service we have long campaigned for.

Day to day we are mainly a food supplier, with our production kitchens pushing out hundreds of freshly made meals daily. Across North Wales, we cater for 8 extra care schemes as well as a primary school in Liverpool and a nursery on the Wirral. With the necessary equipment, professionally trained chefs, and access to a food supply chain we already had the relevant expertise to expand our already existing good food supply, to the vulnerable public.

We have worked in food for over a decade with people of all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities. We know what food people like and don’t like and we have the capability and knowledge to create dishes approved by children, adults, and older people. Whilst people of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities have been pushed to self-isolate we were able to push out a menu that caters for all.

We’ve now surpassed the eighth week of our 12-week programme – although we anticipate the need will continue for much longer. Throughout this time we have delivered over 41,000 fresh meals to vulnerable families and adults across Flintshire and South Liverpool.

During this time, I reached my 6-month checkpoint of being a part of the Can Cook/ Well-Fed team. Moving from social media co-ordinator to fundraiser, to food poverty project facilitator to delivery driver and now production kitchen assistant. Working for our organisation means getting stuck in wherever necessary, whenever necessary. This means pulling in every pair of hands available to help in pushing out meals to those affected by COVID, even if your job title is Managing Director. Its hard graft producing, packaging, and distributing 5000 meals a week between 8 of us but that’s what it means to be part of the Can Cook team. We all have a huge commitment and massively believe in the work we’re doing.

It’s something we say constantly but we always work behind the saying ‘if you feed people well, they are more likely to get out of their crisis and if you don’t, they won’t’ and it’s true. This is a saying that is applicable to all the work we do with people living in food poverty and is particularly relevant to the work we’re doing right now. If you feed people well, they are going to have a stronger immune system, an immune system more capable of fending off a life-threatening illness. If you feed people poorly, their immune system will remain weak and therefore susceptible to life-threatening illnesses. Of course, we’re not claiming good food will protect you entirely from COVID-19 but we are saying you’re far more likely to be able to fend it off with a belly full of nutritious food. It’s as simple as that.

We knew the work we set out to deliver would help people in the community during this time, but we did not anticipate the level of difference our food and the scale of production has made to peoples lives. We’ve had people contact us with various health conditions, disabilities and individual heartbreaking circumstances, who we have been able to point in the right direction to receive food. People who are scared, and people who need reassurance. Knowing that we are making a real difference to the lives of these people is what our work is all about. It makes the 5am alarms and 6pm finishes worth it and for me personally it is exactly what I joined Can Cook to do.

Whilst there doesn’t seem to be a clear end in sight for the work we’re doing at the minute we’re happy to continue knowing that people who are shielding or are in poverty are being offered dignity and choice. COVID-19 has dramatically changed the lives of so many and left livelihoods fragile. We only hope that the fresh food response of so many organisations becomes the new normal in our post-COVID-19 world and as a collective we do not revert back to the poor food aid offers that have been in place for so many years.

If you’d like to keep up to date with the work we’re doing to feed vulnerable people in our communities please follow our new twitter account: https://twitter.com/CanCookKitchen.