Hove Lunch club dynamo is our new Food Hero

Lunch club founder wins award for her hard-work serving isolated and older people.

Caroline Henderson is the new winner of our Food Hero award for her amazing work running Hove Luncheon Club which provides a tasty, low-cost meal from surplus food for older people and people with learning difficulties.

Our Food Partnership Food Heroes is a series celebrating the wonderful folk in our city who go above and beyond their call of duty to improve our food system and support others to access healthy, sustainable food.

Caroline won a £50 voucher from The Coal Shed restaurant named as one of the best restaurants in the UK in the Observers Food Monthly awards.

Read our interview with Caroline and watch this short film about the amazing work she does with her team of volunteers.

Tell us about the work you do in the city?

Hove Luncheon club is a community group which cooks for older people on a Tuesday and people with learning disabilities on Thursday at Hove Methodist Church.  Volunteers help cook food which we get from Fareshare that would otherwise be wasted and we prepare a delicious lunch together.  I also work for Cooking and Company a small organisation that does community cookery around Brighton and Hove which is more teaching focused.  I have done inter-generational projects with PACA and Hazelholt Sheltered Accommodation, combining students and older people.

How many people do you serve in a week?

We have just done some stats on this.  We found out we have served over a thousand meals since January. Including volunteers we serve around 75 people on Tuesdays and at least 35 people on Thursdays and I usually serve around 20 people through work with Cooking and Company.

Tell us about one/some of the people you work with?

I work with a wide range of volunteers.  Jimbo is 87 and he washes up every Tuesday, he’s had a song sung to him by Doris Day.  Everyone makes a contribution; I can’t really single one out. Without them it wouldn’t happen.  We have around 25 volunteers.  Hove Luncheon Club won ‘Volunteers of the Year’ in January in the Theatre Royal by the Argus Community Stars Awards.

What is your background?  How did you get involved with community cooking?

I always loved cooking ever since I was a child.  I did Food and Nutrition GCSE and sociology at school.  Then I was a sessional music early years specialist and I had kids and cooking became a bit of a chore.  I did a Cookability course in 2007 with the Food Partnership.  It reconnected me with my love of cooking and sharing nice meals with people.  I started off doing a small project at Vallance Community Centre and gradually built it all up.  I did some work with groups of people with learning disabilities and with Macmillan Cancer for people undergoing chemo.

What did you enjoy most about the lunch clubs?

Cooking for other people is a joy to me.  I love to see people enjoying good food together.  Hove Luncheon Club is my extended family, so every Tuesday and Thursday it is like I have my family around for dinner.  My mission is to feed people.

The greatest thing about this project has been bringing older people and people with learning disabilities together.  Some of the volunteers had never worked with people with learning disabilities before and didn’t know what to do or how to behave.  Now they realise that we are all just people together enjoying ourselves.  That for me has been one of the best things about this club.

What are you planning for the future?

More funding to do the lunch clubs.  There are a lot of isolated people in the city.

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