How a Community Cookery School Is Taking on Coronavirus
The world is in a drastically different place from where it was four weeks ago. How far the coronavirus will spread and what its lasting effect on society will be, are unclear at this stage. But what is clear is that now, more than ever, we need to be doing our very best to help those who need our aid – whether that be through abiding by social distancing rules, gifting resources to charities on the frontline, or in the case of Made In Hackney, making sure the most vulnerable – those who are unable or too scared to leave their homes to even pop to the local corner shop – are able to get the food they need to sustain themselves.
Made In Hackney is a plant-based cookery school founded in 2012 by Sarah Bentley. Its usual day-to-day sees the charity organise free-to-attend cookery schools, skills training, and community parties, all based around vegan meals and educating east London locals on the health benefits of getting more fruit and vegetables into their diet.
Young carers, low-income families, adults with educational needs, the elderly, those with hearing or sight impairments, young people in care, and women’s refugees all use and rely on the community kitchen.
But as with everyone else, its day-to-day has changed dramatically. Due to the COVID-19 situation, it’s no longer safe for those who use its services to come into the kitchen. So, the charity is coming to them, by offering a free food delivery service to those of its members who are most in need of it.
We spoke to Bentley about how the situation has changed the community, what service they are now hoping to provide during the coronavirus outbreak and how you – socially distancing yourself and working from home – can help them.
How has the outbreak affected your students?
Many of our most vulnerable participants are scared to leave their homes. They have various health issues. Many are elderly or live in households with elderly parents. Accessing food over coming weeks is a real challenge for them.
Also many households will cease to have an income, so we will also need to be feeding people who only a few weeks ago would never have considered themselves to be vulnerable.
How many homes are you hoping to provide the home delivery service to?
We will launch with 300 meals a day to test the service and then ramp it up to thousands. The more money we raise the more meals we can provide and the more people we can feed.
Along with providing food to those who are unable to leave their home, how else can we help the most vulnerable in our community during this difficult time?
If you know any people nearby who might be struggling put a note through their door introducing yourself. If you’re not in an at-risk household offer to go to the shops for them or whatever errand they need. Stay grounded. Meditate. Reach out to friends whose livelihoods are tanking and offer to buy their grocery shopping.
Will the meals still be plant-based? And why might it be better to stick to a plant-based diet at a time when we may be without regular sunlight and fresh air?
Yes the meals will be 100 percent plant-based, so vegan. Nutritious plant-based meals packed with fresh fruits, vegetables and lentils will help keep people fit and strong and have much less food hygiene risks than meals with meat and dairy in them.
What has the response been like within the community?
The response has been incredible. So uplifting to see people come together and support the wider community when everyone is experiencing such hardship. It is beautiful. Amongst the madness – something incredible is happening.
How can people help?
The best way people can help right now is by making a donation through the Crowdfunder page if they are able (and we completely understand many people can’t right now) and by sharing the campaign with their networks.
A lot of people want to volunteer but due to enhanced pandemic hygiene protocols we will only be using professional chefs with food hygiene certificates who can complete our stringent hygiene training and can commit to multiple and consistent shifts.
We are looking for cycle couriers though, ideally with cargo bikes to deliver the food but again they will need to complete our hygiene and non-contact delivery service training. This is just so we can keep everyone safe.
Find out more at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/made-in-hackney-4