A year ago today I sat down in my home office to start a day’s work as I always do but this day was different.  It was my first day with Food Train – new colleagues, new job role, new systems and processes, new laptop, new phone and a new service to launch. At the same time, it was all very familiar – working with a remote team of staff and volunteers to ensure that older people were supported.  

Food Train has been around for over 25 years now, growing to seven branches across Scotland covering nine local authority areas. The branches all provide a supportive shopping service as well as many other services for older people in their areas.   However, there are another 23 areas of Scotland that would benefit from the services that Food Train could offer. The Covid pandemic highlighted this issue further as older people were needing even more support than ever to access grocery shopping. Therefore, the decision was taken to accelerate plans to launch Food Train Connects, a one-to-one shopping service where an older person would be matched with a volunteer local to them who would carry out their grocery shopping for them. This service would be available to anyone over the age of 65 in any part of Scotland where Food Train did not already operate a branch.

At this point I was offered the opportunity to develop, launch and lead this new service. I was thrilled to accept the offer and hence found myself starting a new role a year ago today – and what a year it has been!

The Food Train Connects team has now grown to five staff members, we have 276 volunteers and 110 members, we have delivered 559 grocery shops to older people in 16 local authority areas and made 19,500 minutes of friendship calls.

Of course, all this was happening mid-pandemic so I have yet to meet any of my Food Train colleagues or even my own Connects team. However, we do have some tentative conversation going on at the moment about face to face team meetings which is all quite exciting!  

My year with Food Train has reinforced a couple of things for me. Firstly, that there are many older people in our communities that are just needing a bit of a helping hand, secondly there is an enormous amount of goodwill and volunteering spirit in these communities willing to meet that need.  Our job is to match them up.

As we start to ease out of lockdown and I contemplate my first year with Food Train I see a very bright future for the charity and a huge amount of potential to develop the Connects one to one service in communities all across Scotland and I am delighted to be a part of it.