A number of Edinburgh schools are working with a social enterprise to deliver hot meals to some of the most vulnerable people in the Scottish capital.
Craigroyston Community High, Leith Academy, the Edinburgh Academy and Fettes College – the former school of Tony Blair – have teamed up with the Scran Academy social enterprise to get food into the homes of families and individuals in north Edinburgh who are struggling to cope during the coronavirus lockdown.
Schools have given the Scran Academy – set up by John Loughton, who previously came into the public eye after winning Big Brother: Celebrity Hijack in 2008 – the use of their kitchens so that it can expand the cooked meals delivery service it set up in the wake of the school closures on 20 March.
Opinion: 'Just like that, I had left school'
Usually, the social enterprise uses the catering industry to get disengaged pupils from areas such as Muirhouse, Leith and Pilton back into education. However, in the wake of the shutdown it immediately reinvented itself and set the goal of delivering at least one hot meal a day to local people in need.
Now 12 of the young people being supported by Scran Academy are volunteering so the organisation can achieve its new aims – as well as a group of final year pupils from the Edinburgh Academy.
Mr Loughton said: “Its amazing seeing all elements of our schools community uniting, from inspiring schools facing huge social challenges, to using the facilities within world famous independent schools - not to mention the numerous community agencies and volunteers who have supported us in recent weeks.”
At the Edinburgh Academy, final-year pupils have been helping out with packaging the meals for Scran Academy's three chefs. Plans are also afoot for teams of pupil and parent volunteers to start helping with deliveries as the school becomes one of the two main hubs producing meals, along with FetLor Youth Club.
Guy Cartwright, the Edinburgh Academy's bursar, said answering Scran Academy’s call for kitchen space was “a no-brainer” and that Scran Academy now had the run of the senior school kitchen.
On Wednesday, seven pupils had supported Scran Academy to deliver 350 meals and today [Friday] the goal is to produce 1,600 meals, with 10 pupils helping out, he said.
Mr Cartwright said S6 pupils had been chosen because other year groups “should be at a table in their house somewhere doing schoolwork”, but also because that particular cohort had been left in limbo following the cancellation of the exams and the abrupt end to their school career.
The other criteria for pupil volunteers was that they should live near the school so they did not need to travel on public transport, he said
“My own son is one of the volunteers,” said Mr Cartwright. “He is just enjoying being out and working hard and having a sense of purpose again.”
Mr Cartwright said it was the first time – now that social distancing was a must – that having the school’s dining room and kitchen on different floors had actually been an advantage.
“A dumb waiter goes between the two so the majority of the kids don’t need to go to the kitchen at all, they just work at individual tables in the dining room, which serve as their packing stations – all the other dining room furniture has been removed.”
He described the condition in the kitchen and packaging area as “surgical”.
“Scran has carried out rigorous risk assessments and are very strict”, added Mr Cartwright. “All the pupils – and anyone else entering these areas – has to wear hair nets, masks and aprons.”
Mr Loughton said that Scran Academy was aiming to deliver “healthy, wholesome crowd pleasers” such as stovies, macaroni cheese and lasagne to the doors of the people that needed them most.
On the day the schools closed the social enterprise delivered 260 meals to families, he said.
Mr Loughton continued: “Within 24 hours our small social enterprise, with just three part-time members of staff, was repurposed as a large-scale meals campaign – funded by public donations.
“Small community groups with existing relationships of trust are like the fifth emergency service for many. We all deserve the dignity of a healthy hot meal, and access to safe and kind human contact. That's what we do.
“We want to help reduce stress and overall risks to our young people and families living in the area and across the city, as well as those shielded. It isn’t just food – we are a friendly, welcome face every day and the demand continues to grow.”
Since the beginning of the lockdown, Scran has delivered over 12,500 meals.