Nobody missed a meal

Nobody missed a meal - 29/05/2020

“Nobody missed a meal on my watch!”

That’s how Jill Shaw, an integral member of Sheffield’s Soup Kitchen team, turned Covid-19 Emergency Response ‘volunteer catering manager’ summed up the past 10 days. A fire at Sheffield Cathedral’s Archer Project had threatened to bring the city’s coordinated response to supporting homeless and vulnerable people through the pandemic to an abrupt halt overnight.

Since lockdown began and services and charities had to close their doors, a team of volunteers had been cooking and delivering two meals a day to homeless people living in hostels and supported accommodation providers in Sheffield. This had been working well, as the city’s already established partnership working model meant that the team could focus their attention and support where it was most needed.

Fire broke out at the Archer Project on the evening of 14 May, after the perpetrator(s) started a fire in one of the rooms. The fire brigade attended, and the fire was extinguished. Thankfully, no one was hurt. As reports started to swirl the following morning, Jill’s phone was buzzing constantly from 6am. As soon as the Archer Project released a statement to confirm the fire and devastating impact, and knowing she had 110 homeless and vulnerably housed people expecting a delivery at lunchtime, Jill and her team set to work.

She put in a call to the managers of The Milestone at Crystal Peaks, Carl and Lesley, long-time supporters of Sheffield’s Soup Kitchen, to see if they could help by loaning their kitchen to the relief effort. Food was rescued from the Archer Project and by 1pm that day, Carl, Lesley and a group of volunteers were hard at work packing lunches ready to be delivered to supported accommodation providers across the city. Determined that nobody miss a meal, the team cracked on and there was nobody who went without food – an amazing achievement after such a devastating blow that morning.

Jill used the Wednesday night Soup Kitchen Facebook page to put out a call for help, and Sheffield people and businesses immediately rallied around to support the effort. People from across the city delivered food for packed lunches, and companies supported with deliveries of eggs and other dairy products, carrier bags, cups and microwavable tubs – the community demonstrated their willingness to help in typical Sheffield style.

Special mention has to go to Marstons PLC who allowed The Milestone premises to be used whilst the Archer Project is made safe to use, and to Country Fresh Foods and B&P Wholesale who have gone over and above during the past 10 days.

Lesley, manager of The Milestone commented,

“We have previously helped out Mark & Jill, great friends of ours, with the Wednesday night Soup Kitchen and also the Christmas Shoebox Appeal so know how hard the people of Sheffield work to support the homeless & less fortunate.  We knew Jill was helping at the Archer Project during these difficult times and when the fire happened, we knew we could help until they got back on their feet. With the full backing from Marstons PLC we were able to store, cook and deliver meals and packed lunches from The Milestone.  All the volunteers that have helped and are still doing so are amazing people.”

The Archer Project released a statement to say, “There has been a huge response following the fire and the subsequent clean up. We’d like to pass on our heartfelt thanks to all those who have volunteered, to the public for their generous donations and to our regular supporters and donors. We are working on how we can now open our premises for breakfasts whilst adhering to government guidelines rather than passing food through our gates. We will continue to deliver food as required working alongside the other agencies. If you wish to do so you can support our JustGiving Campaign.”

After an extensive clean-up operation, the emergency response catering effort, affectionately known as ‘Meals in Wheels’ moved back to the Archer Project on 26 May from where the team of volunteers will continue to provide meals through the crisis.

If you would like to get involved in supporting the city’s emergency response by donating food, please join the Soup Kitchen Facebook page to keep updated on items most in need.

You can read our statement about the emergency response here: http://blog/our-covid-19-emergency-statement.