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Newcastle residents struggling with social isolation are benefitting from nutritious free meals and socially distanced chats thanks to our partnership with Food Nation.

As the second national lockdown came into force, Newcastle-based food charity Food Nation was keen to help local people who were struggling with the effects of having to stay at home for such long periods.

Food Nation had already accessed Your Homes Newcastle (YHN)’s Community Investment Fund with the aim of delivering a social lunch club at Treetop Village, one of the older person’s developments YHN manages on behalf of Newcastle City Council. There had been success with a similar project funded by YHN in 2019 – a pie club designed to bring socially isolated men together – and it was hoped that this could be built on to benefit even more local residents throughout 2020.

Due to the initial national lockdown instigated by the Government in March, the project was unfortunately put-on hold and Food Nation couldn’t bring people together to cook as a team, share the meal they’d made and give back to their local community.

However, with a long winter looming, some new restrictions in place and uncertainty about what happens beyond early December, Food Nation was keen to use the funding to help tackle challenges faced as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

They’ve now launched “Bait & Banter”, a new project which delivers a doorstop meal to residents and which provides them with the opportunity for a fifteen-minute chat with Food Nation’s friendly staff and volunteers.

The project has already proven very popular in Walker and Byker, with referrals being made by YHN staff and neighbours, as well as some self-referrals, and now the service is expanding into Kenton.

Kristy Whittle, Food Nation’s Youth Programme Manager, said: “We were so disappointed to not be able to launch our initial idea earlier this year, as we know from experience the power of preparing and eating food in bringing people together to socialise and learn some new skills. With the new restrictions coming in and the season having changed to a darker and colder one, we were really keen to try to emulate our original plan however we could!

“We felt it was particularly important we do something now, as we’re aware that sourcing and cooking nutritious food can be a struggle for lots of people for many reasons and also as we knew there would be those who wouldn’t get to chat much now the advice is to stay at home as much as possible. So, after lots of thought about how we could bring our original plan to life while continuing to keep everyone safe, we launched Bait & Banter!

“We’ve already had some fantastic feedback on the project, with some people telling us we’re giving them something to look forward to and a reason to get out of their pyjamas, and others expressing relief that they know their friends are being taken care of now. We’re so grateful to YHN for providing the funding for this vital project.”

YHN’s Community Investment Fund is an annual pot of £100,000 distributed to community and voluntary groups via grants of up to £10,000. The 2020 allocation was provided for projects that focused on building stronger communities, strengthening community partnerships or reducing social isolation.

Jen Vinton, YHN’s Director of Customer Services, said: “We’re thrilled to hear that Food Nation have been so adaptable in their approach to delivering this project for residents and that they’ve found a creative way to ensure people still receive a hot meal, as well as having the opportunity for social interaction.

“Lockdowns are hard for everyone, but we know there are many people in our communities who find it even more difficult due to existing social isolation – local projects like this are so vital in supporting people through this time.

“We’re proud to have funded this project and to provide more money for community projects through our Community Spirit Fund, which was launched this year to help mitigate the impact of Covid-19. Details of how community groups can access this money can be found here, where the next round of Community Investment Funding will also be announced.”

Referrals to Food Nation can be made by residents themselves, or you can nominate someone else to receive a meal and a chat by email to kristy@foodnation.org or calling 07828 608 335.

Deliveries take place on Wednesdays in the following areas:

Walker / Byker:
6th, 13th, 20th , 27th January
3rd, 10th, 17th March

Kenton:
2nd, 9th, 16th December
3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th February
24th , 31st March
7th April