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A Magazine for Sheffield

Sheffield Food Chain supports local people with free meals

Batch-cooked by volunteers with donated ingredients, the charity's meals reach people in Sharrow, Highfield, Broomhall and Nether Edge every week. They told us about their ambitions.

Mark and volunteers labelling meals

Mark and volunteers at Sheffield Food Chain labelling meals.

Sheffield Food Chain

As a writer, meeting food groups face to face and lending a hand feels like the best way to find out more about their work in the community.

So I joined the Sheffield Food Chain team on a Tuesday evening for one of their volunteer-led cooking sessions to learn first-hand about what they do. At the sessions – which happen every Tuesday, 5-8.30pm, at Cemetery Road Baptist Church – the group batch-cook meals which are then distributed by bike to organisations in Sheffield supporting local people.

Over the evening I had the pleasure of chatting to volunteers Mark, Shaun, Will, Emily and Heike to learn more about what Sheffield Food Chain want to achieve in the city.

Thank you for welcoming me to your batch cooking session. How did Sheffield Food Chain get started?

Sheffield Food Chain is a new charity based in Sharrow, set up in 2023. The project is a successor of a food delivery project a few of us were involved in at the Foodhall before it closed down. We wanted to continue our work to support anyone in food or social poverty in the wider community, as there is a need for it.

In the current cost of living crisis, many households are seeing their food bills rise week on week. The work of Sheffield Food Chain is therefore crucial to ensure that families across the city can access free and tasty food.

The meals go to families across Sharrow, Highfield, Broomhall and Nether Edge who find they are struggling to pay for nutritious food, or who may find it difficult to get to the shops because of illness, disabilities or caring responsibilities.

From the beginning, food has always been provided free of charge to ensure that it is accessible to those in the most need and that everyone remains on equal terms.

We use donated fruit and veg from local suppliers and retailers, which would otherwise be thrown away, to create healthy vegetarian meals which are frozen ready for delivery.

All donation pick-ups and food deliveries are done by bike, as part of our mission to create a more sustainable food system in Sheffield.

Vegetable curry

A vegetable curry, cooked with donated ingredients by Sheffield Food Chain volunteers.

Sheffield Food Chain

It sounds like a real collaborative effort, from collecting the ingredients to delivery. Take us through how it works.

It is, 100%.

We collect the donated fresh ingredients from local suppliers ahead of the batch cook. We get veg in from Le Crunch at Bents Green and our main supplier is Beanies Wholefoods at Crookesmoor.

We currently have two meals on the go, as Heike is our head chef tonight. As part of the head chef’s role, they will decide on the meals we cook based on what we are given.

Our other volunteers help to prep and cook the food, which is boxed up, labelled with ingredients and cooking instructions and stored in the freezers. As we have a rotation system we can deliver meals from the freezer and restock our supplies for the next week.

At the end of the evening the cyclists and cooks all sit down to enjoy a meal of the food we have cooked together.

How do you decide what to cook?

Quite often we stick to the safe side of not too spicy!

People like more classic style stews, so tonight we have made a mild cauliflower and potato curry and a lentil chilli.

Some people literally don’t have ovens, so the meal must be something simple to heat up, with no preparation involved.

The facilities at the church are good so we have plenty of space to prep and cook. We have storage for equipment and the freezers to keep the meals. It's eye opening how much churches are being used for community work such as this.

Is the need for community projects growing?

The demand and need are growing and we are trying to strike a balance between our current capacity to meet our existing referrals and growing our volunteer base to try to do more.

We currently have referrals from Shelter, Family Voice off Abbeydale Road and St Mary’s Church on Bramall Lane. We have had to put new referrals on hold, as you can’t run before you can walk.

Now we are getting into winter, some people can’t go to food banks or they might have physical and mental conditions that make daily life challenging and can’t get out or leave the house. Or they might not have any money but they need food.

Cycling in Sheffield to deliver meals

All Sheffield Food Chain meals are delivered by bike.

Sheffield Food Chain

What are your ambitions for Sheffield Food Chain?

We want to expand but we have to be realistic about what we can do right now. Beanies have offered us another day of food, which is very generous, but we need more volunteers and then we can set up another cooking slot.

There is a lot to do and it's hard work but it's enjoyable. Our group of volunteers have got lots of skills to share and there’s lots of interesting conversations as we bring our different experiences.

It has been great to help you tonight and I will be back to do it again. How can other people get involved?

We are always on the lookout for new volunteers to join in our batch cooking sessions or to deliver meals, in pairs by bike.

If anyone is thinking about getting involved in the kitchen, be reassured you don’t need to be an expert chef to volunteer. As long as you’re comfortable in the kitchen assisting, whether that is chopping or washing, we can cater for all abilities.

Volunteering with us offers you the chance to meet other like-minded people, learn new skills and give something back to the community.

If you want to register your interest you can complete our expression of interest form. If you have any questions, please email or direct message on Instagram.

Volunteering as a cyclist for Sheffield Food Chain has been an incredible experience, our journeys filled with laughter and shared stories. Being part of such a hard working team of volunteers dedicated to making a positive impact is both heartening and inspiring!

Will, volunteer cyclist

I moved to Sharrow a year ago and was really keen to meet new people. Joining Sheffield Food Chain has been a great experience – I’ve met some fantastic people and have learned how to create some really exciting new veggie recipes. It feels lovely to be able to give something back!

Flo, volunteer cook
Learn more

The Sheffield Food Chain batch cooking sessions take place every Tuesday, 5-8.30pm, at Cementry Road Baptist Church at 11 Napier Street, S11 8HA.

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