An initiative to help tackle isolation in Bury St Edmunds was recently expanded, following the success of the pilot project in 2021.
Reducing Isolation with Food (RIF) was originally launched in December 2020 and repeated in April, May and June last year, delivering over two hundred and fifty heat at home meals, plus a doorstep chat to adults living alone in Bury St Edmunds.
The initiative, driven by Abbeycroft Leisure in partnership with Bury St Edmunds Town Council, Tesco, West Suffolk College, Bury St Edmunds Rickshaw and West Suffolk Council, is now set to deliver around seventy meals every other month throughout the rest of this year.
Food is sourced from local donations where possible to help keep the costs down and prepared by students at West Suffolk College, then delivered by the Bury St Edmunds Rickshaw team.
Frank Carn-Pryor, Sports & Outdoor Activity Officer at Abbeycroft Leisure has been the driving force behind the initiative and coordinates with all partners and donors. Frank said:
“There was enthusiasm for this initiative right from the start at Christmas 2020, but we wanted to run more pilots last year to ensure that there was a ‘need’ and that we could sustain it.”
“Individuals and families are referred to us by various partners and then volunteers call them in advance to have a conversation and check for any dietary requirements and it’s those conversations, both on the phone and face to face when delivering the meals, that is so important to bridging the isolation gap.”
“Thanks to further funding from Bury St Edmunds Town Council and Tesco, plus overwhelming support from volunteers and local businesses, we’ve now been able to put a programme together for the rest of this year, which will support more families and individuals.”
Greg Luton, Town Clerk said:
“The Town Council are delighted to be involved with this project. We initially sponsored ‘Reducing Isolation with Food’ which got off to a good start in December 2020 and was repeated last year. The idea of delivering around seventy meals every other month throughout the rest of this year has great potential. The Town Councillors got behind the idea of the community effort, working with educational partners like West Suffolk College, charities like the Rickshaw and commercial partners like Tesco. Along with Abbeycroft Leisure we should be able to get the food to the doorstep.”
Julie Bailey, Community Champion at Bury St Edmunds Tesco said:
” I was approached last year by Frank at Abbeycroft to see if we could support with some donations which we were happy to do, so we donated food on several occasions and following an application – they were successfully chosen for £1K. I can’t imagine anything worse than being isolated at home and not seeing anybody day after day.
Tesco are committee to helping the community with these types of initiative. I’m also allowed to volunteer some of my time and so I help to deliver some of the food parcels. It’s amazing to be involved in this project and it shows just what can happen when we all work together.”
Operations Manager for Edmunds Restaurant based at West Suffolk College, Claire Waterson, said:
“Our staff and students have been working on this for the last two years by creating the dishes using sustainable produce. I think this collaboration really shows the spirit of hospitality and highlights the importance of food and how it can positively impact people’s lives and how they feel.
Working with others for the greater good is an integral part of what we do at the college and now more than ever in terms of the rising cost of living, we recognise the value of continuing to support our community.”
Rachel Thomas, Trustee, Bury St Edmunds Rickshaw said:
“BSE Rickshaw was set up to help tackle social isolation, so we are very happy to be involved in this project. Our volunteers love the ‘doorstep conversations’ we have with recipients of the meals, who are always so appreciative; it’s a great thing to be part of.”
To find out more about the initiative or to volunteer or donate, please contact Frank from Abbeycroft Leisure on Frank.Carn-Pryor@acleisure.com.
[Photos taken at West Suffolk College May 2022 – credit Phil Morley Photography]