Soul Food: Tottenham's oldest pub is delivering hot meals to the community’s hardest hit residents

Whilst most watering holes across the country are shuttered (and coming to terms with hospitality’s new future), one public house in Haringey has been a hive of activity during the Covid-19 crisis. Already a cornerstone of the community, family and dog-friendly Antwerp Arms were delivering hot meals to Tottenham’s most vulnerable, just four days after lockdown was announced. This isn’t the first time the public house has pushed through adversity. Thanks to rallying support from locals, “The Annie” (as it’s affectionately known), narrowly escaped demolition in 2013. Dating back to the 1800s, it’s one of only 60 co-operative and community-owned pubs operating in the UK.

For struggling families and individuals buckling under the financial and emotional strain of the pandemic, having a home-cooked dinner delivered straight to their door, has been a blessing. But the gesture goes beyond a square meal. For many residents, like octogenarian and pub regular Barbara­, The Antwerp Arms Association’s 5pm knock on the door is a rare opportunity for some social interaction, albeit socially distanced.

Volunteer taking food delivery from car and delivering to a vulnerable person

In the last three weeks, the Association has doubled its hot meal deliveries to Haringey’s most at-risk groups in response to a surge in demand, which shows no signs of abating. “In prolonged isolation, people’s savings start to basically run out,” explains The Antwerp Arms Association’s chairman, Joanna. It’s thanks to our Haringey Heroes, whose generosity has enabled Haringey Giving to bolster The Antwerp Arms Association’s efforts with a £1,520 grant, that vulnerable locals like Barbara are given the support they need during this difficult time.

“Haringey Giving gave us the opportunity to serve. They were able to say, yeah, this is the project we want to help,” says Antwerp Arms chairperson Joanna Yeung.

We caught up with Joanna, chairperson of The Antwerp Arms Association and delivery volunteer, to see what impact the project has had on the local community, two months into lockdown.

Hi Joanna. Can you start by telling me a little bit about the project and which groups in the community are benefiting from it?

Yes, we are serving hot meals to the community’s most vulnerable during the Covid-19 lockdown. So, our priority is live alone residents, people with ill health, single mothers with young children and key workers. We also deliver to an overnight shelter for the homeless community, located just down the road from The Antwerp Arms. A particular focus is elderly residents of Church Road where our pub is located, many of who happen to be pub regulars (in some cases patronising it for half a century!). The project is not just about hot meals per se. For these at risk groups, its simply knowing nearby friends and neighbours are still there for them, especially as some of our elderly residents are not connected through Wi-Fi.

FareShare driver delivering food to The Antwerp Arms for vulnerable people

Can you just tell me what's on the menu exactly?

There's always a veggie and a meat option. Our team of volunteer chefs cook up comfort food like chicken pie, veggie curry with rice and this week it’s bangers and mash, thanks to our current chef who specialises in traditional British fare.

What have been the logistical challenges during Covid-19? Do you make the deliveries by foot, bike or car?

Generally our volunteers deliver by foot or on bike, but also sometimes by car. All the volunteers know where they’re going because we're local and are familiar with this neighbourhood.

Food delivery volunteer with bicycle ready to distribute meals ot vulnerable people

And what about the challenges when it comes to hygiene?

We are not at all new to kitchen hygiene and catering and hospitality and food safety. I myself am from a food takeaway background. All of our volunteers working in the kitchen are health and safety certificate approved. With just three people in the kitchen, we are able to easily adhere to the two metre social distance regulations.

Can you give me a little bit more detail about how the grant from Haringey Giving is being spent?

The funding has assisted us with doubling our capacity from 60 to 120 meals a week, so we can support more of the community’s vulnerable residents. The biggest outlay isn’t ingredients, but the food delivery containers. The grant has also helped equip our eight frontline volunteers with essential PPE gear, as well as provisioning us with the necessary cleaning supplies.

And for anybody reading this, how can they help with the project?

We always want delivery volunteers (who would need to be available to assist us from 5-6pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays). As The Antwerp Arms is a community-run pub, we would also welcome any help for future fundraising beyond Covid-19, in anticipation of our reopening. The history of the pub serving food to the community goes back about three years ago when we launched our free community lunches, catering for around 50 locals.

Cyclist arriving at the Antwerp Arms to collect food for delivery

How did you find the process of applying for the grant and receiving it?

It was quick. And I think in the new Covid-19 world that’s the response we need. When we normally apply for funding it takes months, but in this case it took less than two weeks. I'm just thankful–not all funding bodies are like that. I think the individuals from Haringey Giving are doing something extraordinary.

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