15th Jun 2021

Volunteers Week: Reflections from the Fooditude Team

For Volunteer’s Week 2021, staff from Fooditude and Sodexo volunteered their time for Pembroke House, in South London. Here are some reflections from the team!

A little bit about Pembroke House, Fooditude and Sodexo.

Pembroke House has been based in Walworth since 1885, when students from Pembroke College, Cambridge took up residence in this neighbourhood to live and work alongside local people. Inspired by this legacy, today they work to bridge traditional divides and unite people – whatever their background or walk of life – to build a better Walworth together.

In April 2020 as business ground to a halt, the team at Fooditude started cooking meals for their community – providing freshly cooked meals to those who were vulnerable and isolating. What started as a project to use up the fresh produce in the kitchen, snowballed into an outreach program delivering to nearly 8 community hubs – supported by donations from employees, clients, corporate donors and grants from the council. Fooditude are now exclusively working with Pembroke House providing 300 meals a week, supported by Sodexo’s STOP Hunger Foundation.

Naturally, this was where teams at Sodexo and Fooditude decided to volunteer when National Volunteer Week rolled around. Here are some reflections from the team, some of whom have been helping with cooking these meals and helping co ordinate this effort through 2020.

Vladislava Kacarova-Pancheva, Events Sous chef

Doing volunteering work changed my perspective of the world. It made me realize I need to give back to society especially the vulnerable and people in need.  We all can get into that predicament and it’s important to make an effort to help the people who may have fallen on hard times due to the circumstances of the last year and a half. The whole experience of volunteering cooking meals for the last year and a half has made feel more empathetic and grateful.

Cristina Covello, Head of Strategic Growth

It was so nice to finally be able to meet some of the recipients of the meals we’ve been cooking over lockdown. A few people were interested in having a chat and it was nice to be able to take that little bit of time to get to know them. I did deliveries by foot, and it happened to be a perfect sunny day, so I got a bit of exercise, a bit of sun and did something worthwhile with my time – all in all, a good way to spend the day.

Antonio Ciavarella, Operations Manager

I felt very welcome, Mario introduced me to the place, explained my duty for the day and all the safety measures they had in place.

My job on the day was to prepare bags with fruits, main lunches and make sure the person in charge of the delivery got the right ingredients with dietary needs requested.

Everything went smoothly and the instructions they gave me were clear and easy to follow. Mario also organised a station with some coffee, juices and pastries. The milk from Jersey was delicious!!

We shared some opinions and experiences, and everyone was friendly and helpful. It has been great to support Pembroke House and knowing that our efforts are so important for many people in the pandemic. Also, was nice to see how Fooditude can bring some sort of joy through nice food and good recipes.

Swati Deshpande, Marketing Manager

I was amazed at the scale of the operation at the food hub at Pembroke House. I had requested to join the team doing walking deliveries for the morning and was amazed at the amount of thought that went into the planning of these deliveries – from dietary needs of the recipients to individual notes on deliveries (in case we needed to wait longer for the recipient to get to the front door or just help them with heavier bags). Walking around the neighbourhood making these deliveries made me really appreciate the efforts taken by all the volunteers in the past year, who have worked tirelessly to serve their community. It also made me reflect on the role of communities in our lives and how important they are to making people feel like they matter and that they will not be lost and forgotten in the Big Smoke.

Bijal Shah, People & Recruitment Advisor

I volunteered with Pembroke House food hub and took part in walking deliveries. Pairing up with my colleague was a great opportunity to spend time together whilst helping a good cause!

I delivered food parcels to those in the local area, being greeted by the recipients was lovely as they were familiar with receiving Pembroke House food parcels, they came across very grateful and appreciated our service. This made it really worthwhile that I was able to contribute to a fantastic cause.

James Ricketts, Creative Content Executive

I arrived early at Walworth with time to kill, so I popped into a café called ‘L’Auberge’. They served the most sublime almond cake, which gave me the sugar kick I needed before my shift began. I had signed up to do packing duty for Pembroke House. My inability to use google maps meant that delivery duty was out of the question. On my arrival, I was greeted with a fabulous energy from a gentleman called Mario (“like that game character with the moustache and hat” he explained). Mario warmly welcomed me inside, but not before ensuring that I had completed all the proper COVID precautions first. Afterwards, I got a tour of the place, with an explanation of how the system of packing food for the delivery guys worked. It’s impressive how slick and organised everything seemed, nothing was out of place! I could tell a lot of thought had gone into the set up.

During my shift I got talking with the other volunteers on packing duty, considering I was a newbie – they were kind, accommodating and were happy help me learn the ropes. I was impressed how many of these guys had been volunteering for Pembroke House for over a year, week in – week out, to help tackle food poverty in their area. You couldn’t have pulled together a nicer group of people. Not only did they provide me with a wealth of knowledge (specifically about cooking vegetables), they also offered me a thick slice of pizza – a sure way to my heart. I was impressed to meet a group of people who obviously cared so much about their community. The volunteers at Pembroke House were a truly inspirational team to work alongside.

Ozge Balkaya, Kitchen Administrator

It was so nice (and surreal for me) to meet people from the team after a very long time (nearly 15 months)! It was actually a much-needed experience for me to work as a group again, helping each other and feeling part of something useful, nice and important after the months of uncertainty and mostly spent alone. Also, as a personal note, it was exciting to walk around south London in which I did not spend too much time!

Ingrid Cross, People & Culture Manager

I arrived last Thursday for my volunteering session at the project with a slight sense of apprehension; having not done anything like this previously.  However, upon my arrival, I was greeted by smiling faces from other Fooditude colleagues and project Leaders from Pembroke House which soon put me at ease.

A quick whizz round the hall and an explanation of how the delivery process worked saw myself partner up with my new buddy Linda (from Sodexo).  Ensuring we loaded our trollies with the correct food for our clients, hand sanitizer and keeping our mobile phones with Google Maps close by we started round 1 of our food deliveries.

Off to visit our first client, Linda and I chatted between ourselves, getting to know each other whilst keeping one eye on our phone and the other on street names as we started walking around Southwark.  Probably because we were chatting, we walked further than we needed to, we sometimes missed entries to flat buildings and it was sometimes a squeeze getting in to lifts but once we reached our clients, they were most grateful to receive our food deliveries.

It turned out to be a very warm day and by the end of the session I was hot, my feet were pounding and where I’d pulled the trolley my arms felt twice their original length.   Despite the physical effects I found the whole experience both rewarding and sobering at the same time.  Those we met were very gracious and appreciative of the food they received despite the conditions in which some of them appeared to live.  In many ways, the day took me out of my comfort zone and made me confront all the things I know exist, but I rarely come face to face with.  I walked away at the end of the day, being thankful for what I have and with a great sense of gratitude to those volunteers who routinely give their time and energy to support those who need it most.

If you wish to read more about the Fooditude Emergency Response or make a contribution to it, please click here.

Published by Fooditude

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