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The Village Kitchen Clackmannanshire

Formerly known as the Playpen Café, the Village Kitchen is a community interest company that supports the senior community (over 65s) across Clackmannanshire and the wider Forth Valley.

The social enterprise brings the community together through food and provides a range of linked services to support physical and mental health & wellbeing, nutrition, and equal access to community services.

Their Meals on Wheels project, Lunch Club at Home, aims to provide meals, support positive mental health and wellbeing in the elderly community and to eliminate food waste.

Read more on their Facebook page here.

The Village Kitchen received funding from EDF Renewables Burnfoot Hill Wind Farm Community Fund (Clackmannanshire) to support their meals-on-wheels project to become a permanent community service. EDF Renewables Burnfoot Hill Wind Farm Community Fund (Clackmannanshire) provides grants to community organisations providing activities that enhance quality of life for local residents, contribute to vibrant, healthy, successful and sustainable communities, and encourage community activity.

Read more about the fund here.

Some facts and figures 
From May to November 2021, the Village Kitchen provided home-cooked meals to the elderly twice per week. They worked with charity Fareshare to eliminate food waste and ensure their portions were large, with many beneficiaries spreading the meal over two days.

During this period, the Lunch Club at Home project increased its core beneficiaries to sixty-seven, with over 90% aged 80 to 102. Over 50% of the beneficiaries had a physical or mobility issue.

More about the project 
As pandemic restrictions and lockdowns eased, the Village Kitchen expanded their work to include a sit-down in-person lunch service at the local community hall. This weekly lunch club café offered a four-course meal at tables hosted by a volunteer.

This extension allowed previously isolated elderly community members to socialise in a safe and friendly environment. The project also includes weekly entertainment at the lunch club café, with local musicians coming along.

Village Kitchen also launched a new project called Lunch Club Big Day Out, originally in partnership with Glasgow-based charity Weekday Wow Factor. This project took older people on a variety of day trips to tourist sites and beauty spots to boost their mental health and wellbeing.

The Village Kitchen plans to launch a fourth arm of their offering – Lunch Club The Big Shop, taking isolated beneficiaries by mini-bus to one of the bigger supermarkets in Alloa to support them with a bigger grocery shopping experience.

Beneficiaries of the Village Kitchen have provided positive feedback on the service, including the home-cooked meals, volunteer drivers, and befriending service.

This project was supported by a large team of volunteers, some of whom worked preparing meals in the kitchen, supporting the chef; others were volunteer drivers, taking the meals out to beneficiaries. This was a befriender role and saw the driver stay for a distanced, doorstep chat and informal wellness check. This contact combined with the home-cooked meal, helped to support positive mental health and wellbeing in the community of beneficiaries.

The food services that the Village Kitchen provide are making a vast improvement to beneficiaries in their diet, adding nutrition and variety to meals while also vastly improving just how easy it is to have access to quality home cooked meals, as many no longer want to or are physically unable to cook for themselves. Recipients also feedback how much they valued the befriending service.

Drivers take the time to get to know the ladies and gentlemen they are delivering to, taking the time to check in with them in terms of wellbeing and overall health. These doorstep visits have ensured some human contact for those who are isolated, the vast majority of whom live alone. Drivers can often be the only people some more physically challenged beneficiaries see that week, and they have fed back that these visits have become a real lifeline for them.

Drivers have often engaged with family members, carers and doctors surgeries on behalf of the person they are visiting, staying for a friendly doorstep chat, and agreeing other ways they can support them (for example, going to the post office or collecting shopping).

Brian*, a beneficiary's son, expressed gratitude for the food and said that his father always looks forward to finding out what the 'dish of the day' was. Lily*, a beneficiary, called the initiative amazing and highly recommended the service. Pauline*, another beneficiary, sent a photo of her driver via text and praised their friendly volunteers. And Frank* said that the soup and scones were yummy, and seeing his volunteer was the highlight of his Tuesday.

*names have been changed