Sycamore Diner was established in 2015 as a community cafe in St Ann's as a City of Nottingham District Scouts community project. They opened the doors of the Scout hut on Hungerhill Road on Friday evenings and invited members of the community in for an affordable 3 course cooked meal, charging just £3 per person.
At the beginning of 2018 they opened discussions with Nottingham City Homes to extend the service offered to NCH residents, changing the method of operation. The value of social eating in combating loneliness and social isolation was recognised, but transporting the elderly to the Scout hut was seen as a problem, which was resolved by developing a model where Sycamore Diner transported the cooked meals and service to community rooms in independent living schemes for the elderly. To support the development of this model Sycamore Dining expanded to operating on Wednesday and Friday lunch times. They provided a lunch club on a monthly basis to around 10 independent living schemes for the elderly.
While the project was a tremendous success, the resources required to run it were not core to the development of young people in Scouting, so in June 2018 we applied to incorporate Sycamore Dining as a Community Interest Company (cic), maintaining links to Scouting through an asset lock to provide financial support for young people in Scouting. To help enable the continued increase in demand for our social eating events we relocated the kitchen to our current operating base at Foxton Gardens, Beechdale, itself an independent living scheme for the elderly operated by Nottingham City Homes.
Our first year operating as a cic ended October 2019, we prepared and cooked a total of 5354 meals which were served at 246 social dining events and 13 community barbeques. We continued our growth of social dining events, introducing a third operating day each week until we were all hit by the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. Our social eating events for the elderly were brought to a sudden halt.
In the first week of April 2020 we launched our meals at home project, whereby we delivered cooked meals to the elderly and vulnerable for a cost of £3 per meal plus 50p delivery charge, restricting the number of volunteers working in the kitchen at any one time, recruiting volunteer drivers and offering the service 5 days a week. Our second year ending October 2021 we prepared and cooked 5874 meals, 1930 being served at 151 social dining events, 3945 being delivered to the homes of the elderly and vulnerable by our volunteers contributing over 5100 hours in supporting vulnerable people in the community with food.
In November 2020 we started tackling food poverty by delivering cooked meals to vulnerable families. We are currently providing over 100 free meals a week to families that have been referred to us.
A recent case study
demonstrates the benefits of this service to the community.
we have 4 general categories of volunteer:-
catering - working morning shifts in the kitchen
driving - delivering meals at lunchtime
front of house - welcoming customers and serving meals
back office - from stock control to event management; and social media to marketing & PR