News Coronavirus Food Alert

Enfield school caterers deliver meals to older people in the community

Enfield’s school catering team has launched a bold new service to provide hot meals for older and vulnerable residents in response to Covid-19.

Credit: London Independent Living Service

Credit: London Independent Living Service

With Covid-19 closing most schools in the London borough and causing many older and vulnerable people to self-isolate, the council decided to match under-used resources with need. And with school kitchens going unused, catering staff's expertise and experience of cooking large numbers of healthy, hot meals daily was clearly going to waste. Meanwhile, older and vulnerable residents were struggling to access a hot meal every day.

Working from an Enfield school kitchen, catering teams are now making and delivering hundreds of hot meals every weekday to residents who are self-isolating during the lockdown. This is an alternative additional service to the food parcels which Enfield council is sending out from their food hubs in response to Covid-19. It’s vital for those residents who are unable to cook for themselves, whether because of a lack of cooking facilities, mobility issues, or other complex driving factors such as mental health, motivation, or issues with strength and frailty. These driving factors that limit people’s ability to cook in their homes predate the crisis, but with many lunch clubs and community meals now closed, choices for older adults in need of cooked meals have narrowed even further.

How this happened
The school catering team were asked to change their operations after the council and local Age UK organisation received lots of requests for a hot meal service. They have risen to the challenge and quickly leapt into switching their operations.

Soon after Enfield council decided to transition the school caterers’ work, the school catering team transformed its’ services to include a meals on wheels service. They began by seeking advice from Enfield’s food safety team on how to deliver hot food safely before collaborating with Age UK Enfield who handle older people’s data and manage delivery instructions and dietary requirements. Other voluntary and community responses have sprung up across London and the UK and are vital in ensuring older adults get the food they need throughout this crisis.

What’s next?
So far the team are getting positive feedback – they are not actively advertising the service, yet are receiving a high level of interest and are now looking at how they can expand provision. They are exploring how to supply meals to more residents and provide the service 7 days a week. This may mean moving to a larger kitchen so that more people can work safely while social distancing and so that more meals can be cooked.

Sustain is looking at how we can support caterers make this transition. If you know about other local areas where this important work is taking place, please get in touch with Fran Bernhardt on (for school caterers) or Morven Oliver-Larkin on (for non-school caterers).

Published Friday 1 May 2020

Coronavirus Food Alert: Sustain's work on food resilience in the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.We are helping secure food for vulnerable people and supporting local emergency responses.

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