Southmead Development Trust rolls out a new community food service

Ella Tainton is the Going for Gold ambassador at Southmead Development Trust. Here she details the work of their staff and volunteers to deliver hot meals to the community of Southmead.

Southmead Development Trust works hard to support and connect the residents of Southmead.  Our teams support our community through a wide range of services – from fitness, our community café (Greenhouse Café), mental health, reducing isolation, youth and play provision, social groups and employment support. COVID-19 has caused an even greater need for these services but has greatly restricted access to them.

Our immediate question was “What are the changing needs of our community right now?” and we quickly set up a Southmead Community Response Team to gather information. Through our Neighbours Connect Southmead programme and our partnership with Bristol City Council’s Care Direct Team, we were able to identify and contact vulnerable residents.

Food quickly became the focus of our community’s concerns and the strongest need was for hot meals. For people who can’t or don’t cook, having a fresh meal made for them is a relief and comfort.  Our Greenhouse Café is usually a busy and friendly community place, popular with residents, and was immediately greatly missed once lockdown began.  The team quickly changed their service to a hot dinner delivery service across Southmead and North Bristol. We now have a weekly menu of meals, cooked daily and delivered hot, which we share on our social media. Residents can pre-order over the phone by 6pm for next day delivery. We offer these meals at an affordable set price. Our Community Response Team refers residents who need cooked meals or emergency food packages – these are delivered by volunteers as part of our café service. We have capacity to double our hot food orders, so we’re happy for in Southmead, Henbury, Brentry and Manor Farm residents to get in touch directly if people need hot food. The number can be found on our Facebook or website.

We work closely with Fareshare South West, so we are diverting food away from landfill. Our café team plan the meals around the available ingredients to minimise food waste and offer the maximum we can.

We are also partnered with Bristol Food Union as part of their cooked food delivery chain. We recently delivered 200 free meals to residents in our community which were cooked by the Gallimaufry kitchen.

We’ve recognised the additional health benefits food can provide. Food is a powerful catalyst to engage those around us. Its comfort can go beyond that of satisfying hunger. There can be a positive effect on mental health from knowing you and your family have had a nutritious meal that day. The energy it can take to cook when you’re not feeling your best can be overwhelming, but this is when good food is most needed and nourishing! Often, the best meal is one cooked for you.

One of our residents said, “Oh my God, thanks so much for organising it, the meals just came. I’m going through a really rough time of grief at the moment, not in contact with family and what’s coming up emotionally. So this makes a huge difference – as well helping to save energy – thank you”.

This is what we are aiming to provide – that space in someone’s day to connect with us, access the additional support we can offer and enjoy a hot meal.

We are continuing to explore our food response throughout this time: we support the North Bristol Foodbank; we’ve packaged donations from supermarkets into emergency food parcels; we’re encouraging residents to share their food stories with us and to pick from our herb planters on our Greenway site; and our Youth Team have done live baking sessions on Facebook!

We are determined that our community connections keep growing stronger through this difficult time and that no resident is left cut off. We’re really proud to be part of Bristol’s COVID-19 food response and would like to celebrate the creativity and resilience of our staff, volunteers and community in how they have responded to this crisis.

Southmead Development Trust (SDT) is a community organisation run by and working to support the residents of Southmead in North Bristol. It runs Greenway Centre, Southmead Youth Centre and Southmead Adventure Playground (The Ranch). To find more about SDT’s Covid-19 community response visit www.southmead.org.