At Front Lounge, we have always fed people. Whether soup and rolls, bowls of fruit or pizza at celebration events, food fuels conversation, ideas and change. But, as everyone knows, food costs money, more than ever in fact.
So, you can imagine how we felt when local restauranteur and mother of eight Kelly Fairweather, who runs The Selkie, Edna Mae Bakehouse and The Ferry Selkie, agreed to cook for some of the youngest people we support.
Kelly, who grew up in Whitfield, now provides tapas and other amazing food for two groups who gather in The Workshop each week – Adventures of the Little People and Let’s Create 23. By enjoying some hot food and eating together, we feed their minds, get them talking, making and engaging. They feel welcome, cared for and nourished.
Right now, in Dundee, as we enter one of the coldest months, over a third of children are living in poverty. The situation is bleak and, according to The Trussell Trust, foodbanks are bracing themselves for the worst winter yet. Foodbanks across the network believe more than 600,000 people will need support between December 2023 and February 2024, with an expected demand for over one million emergency food parcels. These figures are appalling, shocking and upsetting.
But why does Kelly, who is grappling with several demanding businesses, get involved in our little charity?
“My upbringing and my faith have shaped me to see the power of food as something to fulfil people, to show them I care. That simple offering of a bowl of soup is so powerful. I grew up in Whitfield in the 80s and my mum did her best, just as I did when I became a mum at the age of 19. We had nothing, but I had been shown how to cook decent food. Likewise, my dad is African, where food is a huge thing. I hate the thought of people being hungry. It’s made me who I am.”
But Kelly’s kindness extends beyond our two little groups. Edna Mae Bakehouse is currently providing soup and pudding to families on a Wednesday night and, as we approach Christmas, will be rallying the community to fill hampers for families who might otherwise go without.
But Kelly is eager to stress that she doesn’t work in isolation and refuses to accept plaudits for her generosity.
“I’m not doing anything remarkable. To me, what’s remarkable is watching the community getting on board. We have a farmer who leaves a 10kg sack of potatoes and a lady who runs a home bakery who provides a couple of apple crumbles. These gestures might seem small but are huge when combined with others. We do the basics, get it going, but the community adds the bells and whistles.”
Joining Kelly in motivating the community to do their bit is Ken Linton who manages the Dundee and Angus Foodbank. Having outgrown its previous home in a church just along the road from Front Lounge, the demand for our local foodbank has rocketed.
Ken said, “In 2022, we fed 18.5K people, a huge number but, since the clocks have changed, demand has risen dramatically, particularly from those living alone on one income or benefit. Pensioner poverty has become particularly prevalent in Dundee, especially those struggling on their basic state pension set against the cost of living crisis.
“All of our food comes from the public and we are exceptionally grateful for that but I’d like to see even more collaboration, where organisations provide their own drop-off points like those in the supermarkets which work so well. Everyone’s being affected by the cost of living crisis, whether it’s the cost of food or fuel, and many people just don’t have enough to continue donating. We get that and we appreciate every single donation we receive, whether it’s a tin of beans or a tube of toothpaste. We’re not talking luxuries here, we’re talking essentials and even the smallest contribution makes a huge difference.”
And of course, it’s not just food. The definition of ‘basic needs’ extends beyond that. What use is food if you don’t have any cutlery? How do you stay warm without a coat?
For Genna Millar, Project Manager at Dundee Bairns, not having these basics in place can have a devastating effect.
Genna, a ‘Dundee bairn’ herself who grew up in a single-parent household explained, “If you’re coming to school with an empty tummy, you won’t learn. If you have no shoes or a coat, and you go home to a cold house, everything’s affected, your physical and mental health, your school outcomes, your sleep. If you’re a teenager, and there’s no shampoo to wash your hair, you’ll want to avoid school. We’re here to help with these basic needs so children can thrive. Kids are always hit the hardest, through no fault of their own and that’s way worse during holiday periods when parents might be working, struggling to pay for activities and the increased demand for food.”
Last summer, the charity delivered 28,000 meals across 70 projects – “That was a quiet summer”, added Genna. The one before, we delivered 37,000 meals over 100 projects.”
As well as delivering meals through Tayside Contracts, they fund countless charities to provide food, including Front Lounge. They also ran the Cosy Bairns project, providing clothing to children without, and now provide vouchers so families can choose their own clothing.
“Providing a hot meal in the winter months is so important. It impacts on health, ability to learn, home life, happiness, it’s everything. We focus on targeted provision, working with social workers, health visitors, family support workers and community groups where we engage with them to establish specific need. It can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. We never make assumptions and we’re agile because everyone’s situation is different. One thing that’s consistent though, is the need for dignity and respect. We always keep that at the core because no-one likes to ask for help.”
So how can you help Dundee Bairns this winter?
“Our brand-new project is Bairns at Home, focused on providing home essentials for kids and families. Through referrals with our partners, we’ll give out items that can support families. In partnership with The Big Hoose in Fife, we have given out 9,000 items in six weeks, supporting 270 families with everything from toilet roll and toys to washing up liquid so families can get through a month, not just a few days.
“Businesses, too, have a valuable role to play here. In Fife, they supplied paint to a family desperately needing to redecorate, but they didn’t know how to, so a painter and decorator came in and helped them. Other businesses might be able to provide a skill, some warehousing space or some tools.
“And for those who don’t have money or donations, we also welcome time. The entire third sector has been carried by its volunteers for too long, from Covid into this cost-of-living crisis. Volunteers need a break. If you think you can spare some time to support those who have been there through the long haul, we welcome that too.”
To help Kelly, Genna and Ken on their mission to fight inequality in Dundee, visit: