A link in a good chain

by Angela Derbyshire – Jul 07, 2020

One of the things I am missing in lockdown is volunteering for The Food Chain: I have been volunteering for them for about 6 years now.

The Food Chain exists to ensure people living with HIV in London can access the nutrition they need to get well, stay well and lead healthy, independent lives. It delivers meals and groceries, and offers cookery and nutrition classes and communal eating opportunities to people with HIV and their dependents living in London. Obviously, those communal events are not happening right now, but the grocery deliveries have increased as the need has increased in the current situation, so it is helping more people than ever.

I first found The Food Chain when I was looking to ‘give something back’, and also use my passion for food and cooking for a good cause. Being able to cook nutritious food in its fantastic kitchen with friendly people was really appealing. After some training sessions, not only on the kitchen equipment and food hygiene, but on the needs of the service users, I was off. 

In normal times, I cook in the charity’s kitchen in King’s Cross for its Saturday social eating lunches where the service users get together and have a talk from a nutritionist and a hot fresh meal cooked by volunteers. Some live in hostels and only have a microwave, so this might be the only freshly cooked meal they get in a week.

But that’s not all that being a Food Chain volunteer entails, we run varied fundraising opportunities as well. I have done cake sales, world AIDS day fundraising in Soho and Smithfields, helped them publish their recipe book, got some discounted print and paper (perks of the day job!), waitressed/bar staffed at dinners hosted by Thomas Heatherwick, Jeremy Lee and Jay Rayner and marched at Pride in London.

I have even worked the bar at Glastonbury (HARD WORK, but fun), with my wages going to the charity. And then there’s the bingo nights hosted by drag queen Topsie Redfern – legendary! The Food Chain knows how to have fun as well as delivering the serious business of helping vulnerable people.

What I do in my spare time touches my work life too. The Food Chain is affiliated with and has an annual carol service at St Paul’s in our very own Covent Garden, which is also where the cake sales happen at the church’s annual fete. 

And Wardour has stepped up to the plate too in more direct ways. When we had some old but perfectly serviceable iMacs that needed replacing, we offered them to staff in return for a charity donation. If anyone wasn’t particularly affiliated to a charity of their own, I suggested The Food Chain, so we gave a healthy donation in return for the old hardware.

Covid-19 means we have missed a lot of kitchen sessions, a Pride (although The Food Chain was represented in Pride month on the huge screens in Piccadilly Circus, so we were there in spirit), and much more. But the charity is still out there helping so many people to stay well. I can’t wait until I can be a part of it in person again, cooking those delicious meals and seeing my fellow volunteers, The Food Chain staff and service users’ smiling faces.

And of course – if you would like to make a donation, it would be much appreciated.


Published Jul 07, 2020

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