UNSOLD supermarket produce is being turned into meals for elderly and disabled people in Musselburgh.

The work of the not-for-profit organisation Cook-Inn is gathering momentum, as supermarket giant Morrisons got onboard with donations of food and professional chef Clive Birch stepped in with his expertise in the kitchen at the town’s Hollies Day Centre.

Whitecraig woman Janine Johnstone, one of the founders, came up with the idea after visiting a church in Leith early last year with a friend where nuns ran a soup kitchen.

She said: “The nuns mentioned that their kitchen was overrun by hungry people coming down from east Edinburgh and East Lothian.”

Efforts were then made to find a big store which could regularly donate fresh, unsold food for use in cooking classes, meals on wheels, soup kitchens and foodbank parcels.

Gillian Lawson, community champion at Morrisons in Portobello, negotiated a contract with the company’s head office which was signed last September.

Mrs Johnstone said: “They were going to throw it out anyway and were looking for ways to avoid food wastage and extra expense.”

Mr Birch, who runs his own business SsHaa GranDiece and is chef at the Hollies, joined the team and was given free use of the kitchen at the day centre each Sunday.

Mrs Johnstone added: “Clive had the idea to run cooking classes at the same time as making hot food for the less able recipients on the run.”

Mrs Johnstone, helped by other volunteers including her husband Duncan, loads crates of mostly fresh vegetables and fruit into the back of her car each week, adding: “They are taken to the Hollies and either cooked up or sorted into bags for delivery to the referred recipients. Over the festive period several mid-week donations were also made and these were taken to hostels for the homeless all over Edinburgh.

“Councils, GP surgeries, social workers and other professionals working with the public can refer people who need a little extra help. Even neighbours and family friends can refer.

“Most of the people on our confidential books are elderly with mobility concerns and/or dementia. Others are younger but physically disabled. A few simply can’t make ends meet or are awaiting the results of a benefits reshuffle. Some only need us for a while and others keep our service a little longer.”

As of this month, Cook-Inn has received 19 food donations, supplied 156 meals on wheels and 712 food parcels, with a total of 858 people fed in 15 weeks.

Areas covered include mainly Musselburgh but also Wallyford, Prestonpans and Edinburgh.

Mrs Johnstone said that the group was keen to set up a soup kitchen for a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon from a table on the pavement on Musselburgh High Street.

She added: “As yet we receive no funding and it is completely run by volunteers but our aim is to expand all over Edinburgh and perhaps other areas. Ideally, we would like to operate on weekdays as well.

“We urgently need more volunteers, especially a driver or two, on Sundays for cooking, bagging up food parcels, helping deliver meals on wheels and food parcels.”

Miss Lawson said: “Janine and I had a wonderful chat regarding what she was looking for and how she could help the local community, foodbanks and elderly who can’t get out. She also gets referrals.

“She came to the right place for help as I was so willing to help her great cause, so I got together with my store manager and we were more than happy to donate all we have to this great cause.

“At the moment Janine and her strong team come every Sunday but have been coming a few days during the week when I have had extra to distribute.”

To volunteer, donate or find out more about Cook-Inn Musselburgh, call the helpline on 07531 436389.