Age UK

Our Coronavirus Fund has helped Age UK increase a vital hot meals service for vulnerable elderly people have been left isolated by the pandemic.

Age UK had been planning the launch of its Community Hot Meals service for 18 months and had just begun advertising it when the coronavirus struck. Now instead of growing the service gradually, they have had to respond to a rapid rise in demand with up to ten new enquiries a day.

Age UK Director of Services Simon Billingham said: “Many of our customers have quite challenging mobility issues and are literally stuck in one room in their house. They are unable to cook their own meals so we will plate the food up for them and put it on the table or a tray for them to eat.

“Other customers live alone and are capable of cooking but prefer the social contact of someone delivering food for them. And now there are many who just cannot go out because they are over 70 and have to self-isolate.”

The Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund has granted Age UK £2,750  for two commercial freezers that will help it keep pace with demand.

Mr Billingham said: “We have got the challenge of the size of the county so this grant makes a real difference to us because we can make an almost instant investment in two freezers, which allows us to hold more stock. More stock in our supply chain allows us to deliver more rounds further afield into Wiltshire.”

Four vans ferry the meals, which cost £6.50 a day for two courses, all over the county. The lunches are transported in thermal boxes which keep them warm for four hours. Drivers are already delivering the nutritious meals in Swindon, Royal Wootton Bassett, Malmesbury, Minety and Marlborough and are about to start in Salisbury.

He added: “Our business plan was to get to certain milestones and a certain number of customers before we invested in more equipment and more vehicles but what this grant enables us to do is bring that forward so we can get to some of those communities and serve them faster than we would have been able to.

“Once our branded vehicles start providing a service into a certain area we have more enquiries coming off the back of that. The challenge is making sure we have enough stock which is why the freezers are so important. Once we get to a certain size, we will be looking to have premises north and south of Salisbury Plain but these freezers will help to get us to the next level.

“It is satisfying to know we can meet the demand currently and ramp things up, so the excellent support we’ve got through the grant and the good team we have here mean we are able to respond to enquiries and offer a service from the next day.”

Grant awarded: