Battling the cost of living and loneliness 

The meals are prepared using surplus food from 65 supermarkets

A Boscombe-based community invited locals from all walks of life for a free meal gathering in hopes to combat cost of living crisis and loneliness. 

Called The Social Canteen, the convening successfully attracts 70 multigenerational residents. The excess food was packed into around 45 food boxes and will be delivered to registered people the next day. 

Michael French, the project coordinator, told us: “If you look around, there’s a lot of people who would be individual each on their own. There’s also lots of families coming, like a family with four kids with a single Mom, and, you know, it’s really hard for them to cook every day.” 

People from different backgrounds enjoyed free meals in The Social Canteen (17/1). (Delya Apsari)

The meals are made of surplus foods collected from 65 supermarkets and garden gluts, and then transformed into main courses such as turkey pie and vegetarian bake by the hands of an experienced chef. But for Kryzsqof Swiecki (70), pleasing food is not the sole reason to leave his flat on a cold Monday evening. 

The Polish man used to battle with chronic loneliness and depression. The combination of losing a job as a carer for young individuals with autism during the pandemic, family and financial problems were too unbearable. 

With a trembling voice, Swiecki said: “I feel like I’m a victim, because they robbed me of my job. My life collapsed.” 

Kryzsqof Swiecki (70)

Research has shown that elderly over 70 experienced heightened social isolation in the second half of 2020. Report to county council states at least 18,000 of 180,000 elders in Bournemouth, Dorset, and Poole experience loneliness regularly. 

Now, Swiecki volunteers in the community’s garden, enjoys warm cooked meals that he cannot have daily, and interact with others alongside his daughter, Karolina (43) and grandson, Mateo (11). 

“I’m a single Mom, so I cooked every day. Here, they provide tasty food, and it’s like a night out for us – which we don’t normally do for financial reasons,” said Karolina. 

“I do worry sometimes about the food prices going up. But at the same time, I always feel supported because of the community.” 

In September 2021, it was found that BCP area has a high rate of individuals facing difficulty in affording food, ranking third in the country. To tackle the issues, BCP Council allocated fundings for various projects such as £84,107.75 for food assistance via Foodbanks, Pantries, Christmas hampers, and food parcels. 

The event is held every Monday and Wednesday by Grounded Community in a café by Bournemouth Foodbank at 118 Haviland Road. 

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