This Sunday (29 Oct) is the annual Harvest Festival Food Chain fundraiser at the Admiral Duncan in Soho. This year they have moved the party to Halloween and it’s all Hocus Pocus. We asked some of the Food Chain team to tell us more about this important charity, and Admiral Duncan manager Karl about the night itself and how you can help.
Clifford McManus, Food Chain Community Events and Fundraising Coordinator
How important is community fundraising to the Food Chain?
The Food Chain receives no statutory funding so every penny we receive from community events and collections is vital. The support we receive from the bars in Soho and beyond is fantastic.
How is the money raised used?
All the money collected is used to delivery our services. For example £4 pays for all the ingredients for two tailored meals for a service user and £40 will pay for a week’s worth of delivered groceries for someone who is unable to shop for themselves or who cannot afford to buy the appropriate food necessary to live well.
HIV is manageable now, is there still a need for the Food Chain?
Most people are now able to live a full and healthy life and expect a normal lifespan. However this is not a universal given and there are people who are in need of our services. Many people face isolation and stigma and coming to our weekly service is the only interaction with others they have. At the time they are referred to us, people are facing a health crisis and really need a bit of support.
Anna Brewster, Volunteer Manager at the Food Chain
What makes a good Food Chain volunteer?
I’d say the best volunteers are the ones who really care about what the charity does. When a volunteer cares, it shines through in everything they do. One of our aims is to combat social isolation amongst people living with HIV which, sadly, can still be a big problem. So a big smile, a warm nature, and an empathetic ear can go a long way in our kitchen.
What kind of volunteering is there to do?
The three main roles are kitchen assistants, helping to cook the lunch at our communal meals, Hosts, spending time welcoming and socialising with our guests and fundraisers. We also have qualified volunteers who help the Food Chain’s dieticians, others who help us with table decorating, designing leaflets, painting signs, baking cakes, hosting quizzes, driving things around… as a small charity if you have a skill, we can probably find a use for it!
What training do the Food Chain give to their volunteers?
All volunteers are provided with training on HIV awareness, health and safety, basic kitchen skills and supporting vulnerable people. It’s vital that volunteers have the skills and understanding necessary to relate to and empathise with our service users. It’s also really important to us that our volunteers feel well-equipped and fully supported.
What time commitment do you expect from volunteers?
Our general rule is one shift per month. But this is flexible – people work, study, go away for long periods of time, and we understand that. By signing up for a shift once a month volunteers help us to ensure that we have enough pairs of hands to run our services. Food Chain volunteers give on average around 400 hours every month to keep us going so when we say “we couldn’t do it without them”, we really mean it!
What’s your favourite thing about working with Food Chain volunteers?
It’s a family. I know it sounds clichéd, but it’s true.
Ben Morley – Volunteer
Why did you get involved with the Food Chain?
I was feeling a little disengaged with my own nutrition work and wanted to experience something different in the industry. I’d known about the charity but not known about the volunteering options. The role keeps me up to date with the latest nutritional guidelines and practices and provides experience and training I wouldn’t otherwise receive.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering at the Food Chain?
Nothing beats hearing that someone once in crisis is now thriving. It’s a reality check for me. It’s grounding. And it’s about so much more than food; it’s about community, empowerment and social justice.
Would you encourage people to volunteer with the Food Chain?
Yes, volunteer; fundraise, if you only have a couple of hours a week or are as lucky as me to be able to commit a whole day – do it! You won’t regret it and it will make you feel great.
What would you say to someone who is thinking of becoming a volunteer?
Sign up! The charity can’t function without the volunteers. You get to feel good whilst doing good and be part of the community, it’s what’s life’s all about.
Karl Nixon, General Manager at Admiral Duncan
Tell us about the Halloween Harvest Festival?
In previous years, the Admiral Duncan has joined up with the Food Chain to raise much needed cash and food donations with the help of some of the scene’s most popular drag queens.
What’s happening on the day?
Baga Chipz will be hosting the event from 4pm with performances from Sum Ting Wong, Rose Garden, Lola Lasagne, The Vixens, Vicki Vivacious, Tanya Hyde, Cookie Monstar and Son of a Tutu.
And how can Boyz readers help?
We are urging people to dive into their cupboards and bring any unwanted food items, tins and dried goods to the pub before the night and of course we will be collecting on the night.