A PROJECT set up to tackle social isolation by getting people round the dinner table has been revamped to get hot meals out to the community.

Our Community Kitchen, an intergenerational project designed to bring people together through a love of food, was launched two years ago.

Meeting in Haddington Bowling Club, the group would regularly attract 90 people a week to its lunchtime events.

However, with public gatherings banned during the coronavirus outbreak, the hard-working team has taken a different approach to ensure vulnerable members of the community receive tasty, hot meals.

Elaine Gale, founder of the group, said: “We realised that hot food makes people feel good.

“We have spoken to many people that come to us and asked them about that and the feedback we get is that it makes them feel good and a bit loved.

“We felt we had a responsibility to do this and to turn around hot food deliveries.”

A team of volunteers are continuing to work at the town’s bowling club to produce hearty meals, including stovies, mince and tatties, and stews.

The meals are then delivered to vulnerable people throughout Haddington, who have been referred to them by a range of local agencies, including GPs and social workers.

Ms Gale, who hoped to see the project delivering 200 hot meals to 100 people a week, stressed the group was ensuring the meals were piping hot before a person was phoned to tell them that the meal was outside their door.

She praised the community effort, including the bowling club, which is acting as a base, and the rugby club, which has offered its premises should the project need to expand.

Ms Gale added: “The community has been phenomenal.

“The community council bought us some foil containers and we have had lots of donations from the community. We have been inundated with volunteers and there are a tremendous amount of people coming forward.”

A trial run of the scheme took place on Friday, with a view to being up and running on a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Ms Gale added: “We are overwhelmed with the outstanding support and kindness of our local community.

“It’s incredible seeing everyone working together – massive thanks to everyone who has been working hard to pull this together and to those who have already volunteered their help.”

The group has been a great success since it was launched in 2018.

Funding was secured last year to pay for a staff team to give the group stability and to look at ways as to how it could become more sustainable in the future.

Before the shutdown, the group met in the bowling club on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 12.30pm, with visitors receiving a three-course, freshly cooked meal, plus tea and coffee, for £4.

Ms Gale said that came to a halt on March 16, as they were planning their St Patrick’s Day celebrations, due to the virus.

She said: “We were just crying at the very thought of why we were there – to reduce social isolation – and realising people were going back into that place or worse.

“Then we started to think about the bigger picture and there are so many people out there and they are scared and worried.”

Thank you for reading this story. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make.

In order for us to continue to provide trusted local news, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper if you do not already.

Trusted news has never been so important - and neither has your support.

The Courier is not immune to the severe pressures brought on businesses up and down the land by the Covid-19 lockdown.

So if you are able to buy a copy for yourself -and maybe even for a neighbour too who is not able to get to the shops - then we would be very grateful.

And if you do wish to support us, please check with your local newsagent to see if they can deliver the Courier to you.

There is also an E-Edition that can be read on your PC, phone or tablet - just click the ‘E-Edition’ tab under the Courier masthead on the homepage of this website for more details.

We want to be able to continue telling you all about our community heroes: our NHS staff, council staff, teachers, carers, shop owners and shop workers and the army of volunteers in every town and village helping the vulnerable.

But we need your support to do so. If you can, please buy a paper. And keep well and keep safe.

Thank you.

Robbie Scott, Editor