Among the challenges our Kindling team have been facing over the last 7 months, a rather large one was how to deliver a well being project (involving cooking in a small space) during a national pandemic. Particularly when the programme works with vulnerable people and has social interaction at its core (when arguably people need it most). We’re proud to say that our Corrina (Kindling’s Well-being Co-ordinator) managed it brilliantly and tells us more here.
When the UK went into lockdown on the 23rd March, our group of Grow, Cook and Eat participants were half-way through what should have been a 10-week programme of cookery and gardening. Along with hundreds of other community groups and projects across the country, we were forced to give our participants the difficult news that we were closing our doors until further notice.
We knew we had to adapt - Grow, Cook and Eat is all about supporting people with their well-being and this was a time when it was arguably needed the most. But how to continue delivering a project that has social interaction at its core, in a socially distanced way?
Like many other projects and services, our thoughts turned, at first, to the potential to go online. We considered a weekly Zoom chat and Zoom cookery sessions. But, after talking it through with our participants it was clear that many of them lacked the required technology, or the confidence to use it. After further talks we agreed that the most useful way we could continue to offer support would be to begin weekly veg deliveries to our participants' homes, made by Sam, our community cook, with plenty of time built in for those who were isolated to have a socially distanced catch up with Sam. Tagged onto this was the setting up of a WhatsApp group to allow people to share pictures, questions, and experiences of cooking with veg at home.
The deliveries and WhatsApp group continued for several months and were, our participants have told us, a great help during the first lockdown period.
“I have really appreciated the veg each week during lockdown, as I have been shielding, so haven’t been able to get to the supermarket. The visits and Sam’s company have also really helped me to get through this time”. (Avril)
With the easing of some restrictions in the summer, we were able to start planning what the next phase of adapting to the pandemic would look like. As an outdoor project, we felt confident that, with some new safety measures in place, we could start welcoming our participants back to Woodbank. We had one major change - for the time being we would no longer be able to offer cookery sessions as part of our well-being programme. The cookery sessions and shared lunch are a pivotal and much loved part of the programme, but safety is our priority and our current kitchen facilities do not allow for a safe level of social distancing.
Instead, we were able to start offering weekly gardening sessions, with a focus on well-being and appreciating our regained passion to be outdoors, and in the company of others. Since September we have worked with both our participants from earlier in the year, and some new people, who have been referred through services such as The Prevention Alliance, The Wellbeing Independence Network and NHS Community Mental Health Teams.
For us, it has been a total joy to be able to welcome people back to our amazing Woodbank Community Food Hub. And our participants have loved it too, with it often being remarked how beautiful and peaceful the site is, or as one group member put it, “a bit of an oasis during a pretty scary time”.
These sessions will come to an end in a couple of weeks. This is sooner than we would normally have a Winter break from activities, but we no longer have the option of working indoors during poor weather, and it’s more important than ever that people keep warm, dry and well this winter. We’ll begin again in spring next year, in what we hope will be less turbulent times for us all.