A Riverside manager has donned her pinny to cook hundreds of meals for vulnerable residents in supported accommodation in Suffolk during the Covid-19 pandemic.
When the lockdown measures were enforced across the country, it meant that activities with residents in Riverside’s supported housing services were temporarily stalled to ensure that social distancing guidelines from the government were adhered to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
So for Riverside’s Nicola Baker she decided to put her chef’s hat on and provide meals for vulnerable customers at Peppercorn Lodge young parents accommodation to help them get through the lockdown – especially since some residents have lost their jobs or been furloughed and are struggling financially.
Nicola, from Ipswich, said: “Before the pandemic I held cookery sessions with them at least once a fortnight so they could learn how to cook wholesome meals on a budget and even sneak in the veggies the children wouldn’t normally eat. But we had to stop them when the lockdown began and they missed the sessions including the meals they ate at the end of it.
“I thought I’d cook meals for them in my spare time to keep spirits lifted and help them to continue to eat healthily. I vary the dinners from cottage pie to pasta dishes and I also bake desserts such as cupcakes, in total it all costs under £30 for 12 people!”
Nicola is able to use the provisions that Fareshare regularly donate to make the meals, and tops it up with purchased food when stocks are low.
“All the meals are cooked very cheaply and I include the recipe with the meal in case they want to cook it themselves. When I deliver the meals they are greeted with whoops and cheers, and I have continued to do this every few weeks until the lockdown finishes,” says the mum-of-two.
“We will definitely start the cookery sessions as soon as the social distancing rules are relaxed and we are able to get back in the kitchen again.”
During the lockdown Nicola arranged a picnic on site for the families, making sure that the two-metre social distancing rule was adhered to by spacing out blankets.
Peppercorn Lodge is run by housing association Riverside, providing supported housing for young parents in Suffolk who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The service helps them to develop the necessary skills and confidence to move to independent living.
Nicola also looks after other supported accommodation and retirement living schemes in Suffolk including Turret Green Court, Kiln Cottages and Homelands Court, Peppercorn House extra care scheme and the Housing Advice Service at Military Correction Training Centre.
She keeps in regular contact with residents via telephone including Dolly Bugg from Turret Green Court to make sure she is keeping well and doesn’t get lonely. Dolly celebrated her 102 birthday recently and to mark the occasion Nicola put together an afternoon tea and delivered it to her flat.
Nicola added: “Dolly was very pleased and sent a thank you email to me. She is just amazing and is the absolute best at shielding, nobody has entered her flat. She hasn’t been outside the front door once! Everything is left at her door and she takes it in when you have gone, she a true inspiration to us all and I absolutely love having conversations with her on the phone.”
Nicola also volunteers in her community by collecting and delivering prescriptions for people unable to get out.
Riverside is one of the largest provider of homelessness services in the country, and its Care and Support operation works with over 16,000 customers every year.