Empty Kitchens Full Hearts has now turned surplus food into more than two million meals for people in need across Edinburgh - a phenomenal achievement that only started out as a temporary covid response in 2020 and sadly points to widespread, persistent poverty in our capital city.
Currently supporting around 800 people across the city each week, the charity prepares meals that are delivered to homes, meal collection hubs, and community meals. Almost 75% of these are delivered to North Edinburgh, Leith and South West Edinburgh. A community of nearly 400 volunteers have been completely instrumental to getting these meals to those who need them, and they play key roles in the kitchen, packing, deliveries, cleaning, and supporting service users and volunteers. The charity is always looking for more volunteers to help out in these different roles.
Janet Jones, Finance & Business Lead, said: “Having started during the pandemic, we discovered very quickly that there were people living in extremely challenging circumstances across our city, and that these issues are very often systemic, and long-term. We are still receiving many requests for our support every week, and we supported more than 1,200 people in 2023. A further 5,000 people accessed support last year at outreach initiatives such as community lunches and after school programmes. In December alone, 113 more people signed up to the service and a further 123 people in January, and there’s still another week until the end of the month.”
Susie* has been receiving longer-term support from Empty Kitchens Full Hearts, and got in touch due to a lack of money to cover the basics of food and heating as well as ill-health, which has much improved since she first got in touch for some support. She also really enjoys going along to a community meal with one of their partner organisations. She said:
“I really enjoy the meals and think they are tasty, nutritious, and filling! They make food budgeting much easier and I’m really glad and lucky to get them.”
Alongside meals, Empty Kitchens Full Hearts provides follow-up support to try to help with the other challenges people are facing. People looking for help with food are also facing lots of other difficulties such as mental and physical health challenges, insecure housing, and unemployment. Working with other organisations across the city, the charity has referred people to services such as financial advice, housing support, help for new mothers, befriending services, and employment support.
Kirsten Stalker volunteers to support people across the city:
“I've been volunteering in the Service User Engagement team for a year. With a background in social work and service user research, this seemed like a great way to keep using my skills and experience after I retired. We are hearing heartbreaking stories about extremely difficult circumstances, and it's good to know that we're supporting so many people. I've met some lovely people through Empty Kitchens Full Hearts and really enjoy being part of such a worthwhile enterprise.”
In what is a very tough time for so many charities facing soaring demand and rising costs, Empty Kitchens Full Hearts is currently asking people to “Do Good with Food” and donate to its Winter Fundraising Appeal. A donation of £15 provides food and follow-up support for one person for one day, and £45 would support a family of three for one week.
Fundraising Manager, Emily Gifford, said: “ A gift of any size makes an enormous difference to a huge number of people across Edinburgh. Everyone deserves to know where their next meal is coming from, and with your help we can make that a reality for people across the city. No-one should be going to bed hungry.”
To donate or volunteer, visit the Empty Kitchens Full Hearts Website: www.emptykitchens.co.uk
Photo credit: Scott Baron Photography