Food and other essential items are something that we have always had available for our young people in the Youth Team, Aberdeen but we were aware that when COVID – 19 hit that we would need to be more creative about how we made sure food was available for young people in a safe and structured way. Prior to the official lockdown in Aberdeen, the team began to visit supermarkets daily to ensure we had enough supplies to support young people who could not travel near and far for essentials like toilet roll and pasta. At the beginning this took us hours of work, every day, visiting a number of supermarkets due to the empty shelves and lack of available essential items. We were lucky to be given regular deliveries from CFINE (Community Food Initiative North East) - CFINE works to tackle poverty and improve health and wellbeing in the North East. These deliveries complimented the shopping being done by the team and to help us begin to build up a stock of food and other essentials. We also bought nappies, wipes, and cat and dog food as we were aware that many of our young people have both children and pets to care for.
Support through ‘stay at home kits’
When Coronavirus became ‘real’ and young people began to self-isolate if required, we started making ‘stay at home kits’ which included all the essentials to support them during this time and we ensured we also included cleaning products. We wanted young people to have the right products to allow them clean surfaces regularly, therefore lowering the risk of transmission within the family home.
We shared information about our Stay At Home Kits via text, calls, and emails as well as putting up posters around the building and posting on our Facebook Page. When a young person requested a welfare package, we would ask what items they required to add to what they already had in their home. Due to some young people self-isolating and the building closing when lockdown was announced, we decided that we would deliver the welfare packages three times a week to the homes of the young people. This allowed for packages to be dropped off safely at young people’s door, more regular packages could also be dropped off if required. Young people could self-identify if they required a package, or staff could support them to assess if one was needed. Welfare packages were delivered with the support of a handyman from our local children’s homes, which allowed for a greater amount of be delivered in a smaller time scale.
Home cooked meals and cooking alongside young people is something we have done in the team for some time, but it became apparent that with a different way of working, other tasks no longer seemed as important, and instead home cooking become a priority. We quickly decided that homemade meals was something we wanted to offer in our welfare package deliveries. Every Thursday a domestic assistant from one of our local children homes would come to cook and we then decided to batch cook a minimum of two days a week within our council building. Our batch cooking included meals like homemade soup, macaroni cheese, chilli, lasagne, and sausage and mash. This was then incorporated into the expectations of our daily tasks. During this time we began to collect a greater amount of food than needed for our deliveries and wanted to support others out with our team, and a few weeks into lockdown we began fortnightly deliveries to ten kinship carers, ensuring the reach of the food we had access to went further.
Nurture with a difference
We were aware of the need to continue to nurture our young people and due to the decrease in face-to-face contact and the fact our building was closed to the public, we still wanted young people to feel cared, even although this was in a different way - through food. As well as making a range of homemade meals we began to upload photos of these meals on our Facebook page alongside recipes, we even make a TikTok video on how to make macaroni cheese. We would ask young people via Facebook if they would like the ingredients to make the meal in their next welfare package.
We were aware of the importance and relevance of social media for our young people and how this is often their preferred method of communication. Young People often were easier to contact over Facebook when they could not be contacted by a call or text. Young people shared that they often do not have credit on their phones but have access to an internet connection. We received positive feedback on our Facebook Page and directly to workers from young people who were not only enjoying the meals but were trying meals they may not necessarily would have tried otherwise. One young person commented on how much he liked the soup, but as well as this, how handy the containers were to keep for food storage.
Social media has been key
Our Facebook page has been central to keeping in contact and nurturing relationships during lockdown – we’ve updated young people, getting their feedback and connecting with them to provide advice and guidance but also on a personal and fun way.
In March 2020 we had 61 followers on Facebook and we now have over 250 followers. Young people have enjoyed learning about a variety of topics on Facebook as well as feeling (digitally) connected to the team and individual workers. We found that posts that include pictures or videos of meals were better received than links to other websites which did not have that personal touch.
From our learning from COVID-19 and our adapting to meet the needs of young people we have decided that ensuring home cooked meals continue to be a priority in our daily practice will continue, as well as connecting with our young people in more creative and imaginative ways.
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