Well, this certainly hasn’t been the six months that I thought it was going to be. On 27th April 2020 I sat down in my home office, at the same desk I have sat at for the past 12 years but this wasn’t a usual work day, this was the first day in a new job. I had jumped on board the Food Train with the remit to launch their new service, ‘Connects’.
It was the height of the Covid 19 pandemic and I had just entered the whirlwind of activity that is Food Train. No face to face introductions with new colleagues, no on-site inductions and no in-person meetings with my new manager. All was virtual but it was a very warm and friendly welcome and I felt at home straight away. I met all my colleagues in zoom meetings and over Microsoft Teams and six months later have still not met anyone face to face.
Food Train has been supporting older people for over 25 years now, our branches across several local authority areas in Scotland are providing a regular weekly food shopping service plus a variety of other services. Within Food Train there is also Mealmakers and Eat Well Age Well, Mealmakers is a local neighbourhood food-sharing project that connects people who love cooking and an older neighbour who would appreciate a freshly cooked meal and some company. Eat Well Age Well is a national project tackling malnutrition in older people living at home.
Food Train had plans to develop another new service, ‘Connects’, which would aim to cover all parts of Scotland where we don’t have branches. The plan was to match volunteer shoppers on a one to one basis with an older person in their neighbourhood to do their regular grocery shopping for them.
Then the pandemic struck.
The ‘Connects’ plans were accelerated as the offer of a volunteer Shopping Friend for older people unable to get their own shopping become more important than ever. I joined Food Train at this moment and was tasked with getting this service off the ground.
At the same time a huge operation was happening across Food Train, not only to maintain our vital services but to regularly call all members to check in on them and ensure they were OK. A massive task involving both staff and volunteers. Over the months it became clear that these regular calls were highly valued and provided an essential support line for isolated, older people. It was decided that we would provide a regular phone call service under the ‘Connects’ umbrella and ‘Phone Friends’ was launched.
Six months down the line and although I still feel like the ‘newbie’ I also feel like I’ve been here forever thanks to the welcoming atmosphere at Food Train. The Food Train Connects service is flourishing with both Shopping Friends and Phone Friends attracting a great deal of interest from both volunteers and older people.
The Connects staff team is growing and we are a small but perfectly formed group with great plans for the future of the service – a service which is a vital lifeline for so many older people. Connects not only offers grocery shopping and regular telephone calls but provides a real connection to the community, a friendly face and a blether.
It’s been a quick six months in unusual circumstances but I’m delighted that I have spent it developing and launching such a fantastic service that will benefit so many older people across Scotland.
I’m looking forward to the next six months and more at Food Train Connects.
Food Train Connects
0800 304 7924