I had planned to write a monthly blog during 2020, each month a way of saying happy 25th birthday to Food Train, celebrating our achievements with warm words while politely stating the obvious that 25 years on, food insecurity for older people was worse than ever. I’d even created a timeline, it was in my diary. Then Covid19 snuck in and a dark tale of food insecurity among older people emerged without any politeness or warm words. The Covid tale is filled with fear and anxiety, desperation that brought out the best and worst in humanity and it’s still writing the ending for thousands of people around the world.
As part of our 25th Anniversary celebrations, we’re unveiling a fresh new look for Food Train, something modern and easy to use, with a whole family of logos to showcase all our services. I’ve really had to move with the times and the main question for this new logo wasn’t “will it fax?” it was “will it look good on acrylic nails?” – who knew it was even possible to get logos on your nails!
Reaching any milestone makes you pause and think about all that has gone before. This year, Food Train is celebrating 25 years supporting older people in Scotland. Usually I have lots to say on pretty much every subject, but to describe Food Train’s 25 years so far, I need only one word - kindness.
I like to think of myself as a closet van expert. I can spot a Boxer or Berlingo a mile down the road and know my gross vehicle weights as well as the alphabet. But ask me about electric vans and I’ll be gazing up the highway for the answer. Food Train currently has 34 diesel vans on the road, an assortment of medium sized vans spanning anything from ‘nearly new’ up to 10+ years old, all with varying badges of honour, otherwise known as ‘close encounters with car park bollards’. While all our vans get a regular clean, they are not the cleanest when it comes to carbon emissions and I’m conscious that we are contributing to the climate challenge instead of helping it. Every Food Train van has taken a serious fundraising effort to buy it and for 52 weeks of the year they are constantly on the road delivering vital food supplies to our members, helping them eat well at home. Without our vans we simply can’t deliver our service to those who need us, you could say they are our bread and butter. Having a fleet that is clean, green and much cheaper to run would be better for the environment and help our Charity become more sustainable, but it’s a pipe dream … or is it?
Earlier this month, I watched the Twittersphere fall in love with the short film Andy Parsons made for the Campaign to End Loneliness, showing the power of a simple ‘hello’. The #LetsTalkMore hashtag was trending and Twitter was full of people inspired by the power of connecting with each other, it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling and it was great to see the work of the Campaign reaching far and wide. But at the same time, I also felt a little sad that a reminder, or permission, is needed for us to interact with our fellow beings, person to person.
Earlier this month saw the publication of the Scottish Government’s new Framework for Older People, and I was chuffed to bits to see a half page section on tackling and preventing malnutrition, with a firm “we will” commitment. It may only be a small section, with a commitment that’s open to interpretation, but it feels like a success of great magnitude that has taken years to achieve.
Over the last couple of years, but more so in recent weeks, I’ve found myself saying ‘breakfast’ when I mean to say Brexit. I’ve begun to think this is not some slip of the tongue, but a hardwired note to myself that breakfast is, actually more important. I could easily have survived the last 2 years without Brexit, but not having any breakfast is a much bigger problem, and there are many people struggling every day with food related issues, before you add in the yes, no and maybe chaos of Brexit. We know very little about the course of Brexit, but do we know that everyone is getting breakfast?
During the last few weeks, every part of my brain has been occupied by thoughts on funding for the coming financial year – will budgets be cut, what will that mean for our older members, volunteers and staff? Don’t get me wrong, I think about funding pretty much all year round, but this time of year shines a big glaring spotlight on how precarious things can be for Charities with public sector funding. The ‘sustainability’ word rears its head in every conversation and in every report, everyone asking how we are going to be more sustainable, without saying the real truth ‘there is less grant money for your Charity but we’d like you to have the same impact’. It got me thinking about what it means to be both Charity and Social Enterprise and who gets to decide where the balance lies between earned income and traditional grant funding, and what does sustainability really mean for us today.
During December we received many kind food donations for our members in time for Christmas, including M & S food hampers donated by The Rotary, Pheasant Casseroles from the Countryside Trust, biscuits and hand-written cards from a primary school class. Extremely generous and kind, and our members were really overwhelmed with the various food related gifts they received.