When the Herefordshire Meals on Wheels service ceased to operate, a small catering company took up the challenge.

Local entrepreneur and mother Bonnie set up her own catering business a few years ago. Bonnie provides food for a number of nurseries, a local community centre and for parties and events. In March this year, she heard that the local Meals on Wheels service was due to close and decided to take action to prevent local vulnerable residents from losing this vital assistance.

I felt it would be devasting to lose this service in such a rural county.  My Nan had to go into a home at the end of her life, so I wanted to do something to help older people stay in their own homes and be more independent. Perhaps my Nan could have stayed in her own home longer if she’d know about and used this kind of service.

Herefordshire Local Authority put Bonnie in touch with me, as the local Community Catalyst, and we discussed the steps she’d need to take to start delivering food to local people. Together, we worked through the process of taking on the business in a very short space of time – we had just a few weeks to complete the process and Bonnie was due to have her second child any day!

Taking on a new service was daunting at first, there was so much to do – finding new clients, taking on staff for the first time, becoming an employer. There were many, many hurdles. I was already busy with my existing business – and I’d just had my second child. He was only days old!  But Tess has been amazing. She gave me all the information I needed at each step of the way. I couldn’t have done it without her, I really couldn’t.

We worked hard to create and action the necessary policies to enable Bonnie to expand her enterprise to take on the new work – things like becoming an employer, gaining DBS checks, thinking through how to make it sustainable and to market the new venture.  Bonnie began to deliver meals on wheels in April this year.

Bonnie’s new meals on wheels service now has a few bonus features – it caters for those with specific dietary needs such as vegetarians, vegans, those on a low sodium diet, or who are celiac or diabetic. It also provides frozen meals for the weekend if this is something people want.

We don’t just deliver food, we also stop and have a natter. We’re offering the social side of things too.

It’s only been a few months since Bonnie began her meals on wheels service and there are still hurdles to jump. She needs to replace her van and get bigger premises in order to grow her enterprise.

Bonnie is working on plans to create lunch clubs to bring people together and is in talks with a local care agency to set this up. In such a rural setting, where there can be a great distance between neighbours and where not having a car can really isolate people, being able to get a nourishing homemade meal delivered by someone you know can make such a difference. Working with enthusiastic people like Bonnie who love taking on a challenge and who really know and love their community is what makes working at Community Catalysts so rewarding.

by Tess Brooks
Community Catalyst (Herefordshire)