1660. Anna Mantell
Anna Mantell, from Kent, created ‘Food Friends’, an intergenerational project matching people who love cooking with a neighbour, who would benefit from a home cooked meal and doorstep chat, as a means of tackling both social isolation and food waste.
Anna, who is a former nurse, got the idea for the project from a friendship she struck up with a local resident aged in her 80s called June, and set up the initiative in 2019 as a way of enabling other people in the community to connect by sharing food on a weekly basis. Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, Anna and the group have delivered over 3,000 home cooked meals and in addition, working in partnership with ‘The Umbrella Cafe CIC’, distributed over 4,000 meals to families in Whitstable facing disproportionate challenges due to the pandemic.
Anna’s award coincides with Loneliness Awareness Week, the annual campaign encouraging people to talk about their experiences of loneliness to reduce stigma and work towards tackling the issue of social isolation.
In a personal letter to Anna, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“Thank you for your fantastic initiative ‘Food Friends’ which has brought together neighbours to share home cooked meals, company and conversation.
“One of the toughest aspects of the last year has been the isolation felt by many people cut off from friends and family. So I was particularly uplifted to learn of your friendship with your eighty year old neighbour, June, which is a wonderful example of the community spirit that has kept so many people going.”
“I’m thrilled to accept this Points of Light award and to be recognised by the Prime Minister for the innovative work of ‘Food Friends’. This award really is for all of the incredible volunteers, who have put so much time and enthusiasm into the meal sharing initiative, bringing the community together with every delicious meal that they deliver!
“The impetus for setting up ‘Food Friends’ was meeting a remarkable woman in her late 80s – June. June lives alone in the centre of Whitstable, a beautiful seaside town attracting thousands of tourists every year. Yet, despite the hubbub, she often felt alone among the masses. I developed ‘Food Friends’ to enable all those who love to cook, no matter how busy, the opportunity to connect with their community. Sharing food is a fantastic way of forming new friendships. Whether young or old, ‘Food Friends’ benefits the whole community. Age alone is not an indicator of how lonely someone may be.
When I met June I had two young children, and although there were 53 years between us we formed a strong connection. A friendship that helped me through those challenging years when the children were young.
Here’s to many more years of friendship June!”