Jill Preston our Vice Chair and the Chair of CREst has written this excellent account of the activities of her team during this crisis
There have been a number of questions about what we are doing in Piper and our mission to continue the work we were already doing with the Tuesday Group . This has been running for a number of years and aims to create a safe environment to feed and assist local homeless and vulnerable people.
We have made every effort to keep this going throughout the pandemic even though we have had to change and adapt , as with everyone else. Last week we distributed 54 hot meals – more of how we have adapted later.
We do a food stock-check after our Saturday Foodbank. This allows us to dip into our donated funds when we shop on Sunday. Gez and I have perfected a system whereby I text her when I start shopping and she picks me up in her car afterwards to unload in Piper Hall.
Our key aim on Sunday is to ensure that we have sufficient supplies for our Tuesday Group session. We are very lucky to have a number of volunteers who cook nourishing food and bring it in just before we start at noon on Tuesday. Ed Naylor’s hotpot is always a hit!
Thanks to the pandemic we have had to increase the variety of goods we offer to our clients. We now continue to offer a choice of hot meals ( sadly in take away containers) plus a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, ‘kettle packs’ [ items that those in temporary accommodation can ‘cook ’if they only have a kettle such as cup a soup, pasta in a mug, juices, cereal , sandwiches etc.] In addition, we have toiletries and pet food plus cakes and snacks.
Monday – I usually go to Piper Hall to take frozen meals out of the freezer and rearrange the hall into ‘Tuesday’ mode. This means swapping around tables from the Saturday layout. Suzanne and her fellow SFRA members drop off ‘treats’ for the next day and Des Kaye from ‘Save the World’ calls overnight to drop off fresh fruit and other goods which we use to help our Tuesday Group clients.
Tuesday – This used to be our key focus of the week. Sadly, times have changed and we have been doing our best to keep up. There are normally a couple of us in Piper Hall by 10/10.30am to fire up the ovens and prep the vegetables etc for the hot meals.
In order to adhere to Covid restrictions we have had to increase both the number of volunteers and constantly revise the Risk Assessment. Tuesday is also the day that we receive a visit from Debbie at City Harvest where we are lucky enough to receive goods which can from fruit and vegetables, fresh meat, dairy and a variety of other things. We are lucky to have access to a chest freezer and an American Fridge Freezer which our local councillors have helped with.
Wednesday – another day where we review the food supply and reach out to our local supporters to ensure that we have sufficient supplies. This includes The Dons, Voices for Hope and , best of
all Sainsbury Sury Basin. We have been working in partnership with them for several years – long before the Covid pandemic. Our beautiful Treasurer, Gez, collects donations four or five times a week.
Thursday –This is when we assess the food situation and decide how much of our budget we allocate to buy in sufficient fresh fruit and veg to supply the ever-increasing numbers of clients.
By this stage we are doing our best to plan who can help out on Saturday. This depends on weather conditions ( do we erect the marquee?) temperature ( do we have volunteers to offer hot drinks? )
Friday – Myself and Trudy spend several hours in the hall receiving deliveries from the Don’s, Sainsburys and private donators.
We are lucky to have an excellent local wholesaler who is very reliable and with delivery. The 200 plus we are currently supplying does not make it possible to totally rely on donations.
Over the last couple of weeks we have had to seriously review our health and safety procedures as we are currently helping some 200+ residents. We have found that making changes to the halls before our Saturday session speeds things along. This can take some three or four hours.
On Friday evening Save the World and SFRG deliver donated goods ready for the ‘big day’
I spend several hours checking the register to update details and have found that it is faster to print out the list which I check manually and then update on Sunday. This is printed along with delivery list ready for the morning
This is our busiest and most stressful day. Gez checks the Save the World donations so that we can offer fresh goods to clients. I normally have two or three locals to attend at about 10am to prepare boxes for those who need food delivered. Michael and his supermarket trolly are wonderful. He has recently had a teenage lad with him to help as the delivery requests have doubled ( 13 this week)
Then it is a question of setting up a safe system for local residents – marquee and signs up, sorting tables out and marshals allocated. Then body warmers issued. We also allocate someone to hand out hot drinks as the wait can be up to an hour. RBK have kindly laid matting to reduce the quagmire and opened up a fence in the small green as an exit. This prevents clients crossing over by the existing gate. We have two or three ‘sorting tables’ outside which allows people to reject any unwanted items without holding up the queue – this can often snake round the building. We now allocate marshals to ensure everyone socially distances. Another volunteer brings in unwanted cans and clears the cardboard boxes.
On Saturday we also need a number of volunteers inside the hall – preparing fruit and vegetable bags, preparing small and large food boxes, and keeping us supplied with frozen and fresh food to hand out to clients as they are ticked off the list.
We are also lucky enough to have Cllr Dave on hand doubling up as a marshal outside but able to sort out urgent issues raised by residents- normally housing issues.
Shortly after 2pm we take in all the tables, marquee etc and leave any remaining food outside the hall for passing residents to help themselves. Then a stock check ready for Sunday and home to check the number or residents who attended ready to start again on Sunday!