"We offer safe spaces without judgement, where everyone is welcomed, accepted and listened to"

As an organisation with a mission to support the homeless, tackle social isolation, challenge food poverty, and enable people to improve their health and wellbeing, Inverness Foodstuff are a charity who utilise integrated practices to champion the community, break down barriers across society, and demonstrate the value of the third sector.

Established in 2014 with the motto “more than just a meal”, the organisation are based in Inverness city centre and provide over 1100 lunches a month to around 500 people. By serving nutritious vegetarian meals using surplus food that has been donated, prepared and served by their volunteers, Operations Manager Pam Urquhart says that Inverness Foodstuff is all about community.

“Demand from the local community has really exceeded our expectations”, Pam says. “It’s been heartwarming to see people relaxing, enjoying lunch, and friendships being formed, as highlighted by one of our regular participants who said “it’s a life saver as I’ve made good friends”.”

Since September 2023, Inverness Foodstuff have been working with Highlife Highland, who deliver a similar service in the Hilton area of Inverness – an area with high levels of deprivation – highlighting partnership working across the city. This service seeks to reduce social isolation and loneliness, as well as address food insecurity, which showcases the value of the third sector in contributing to health and social care integration.

“We welcome people of all ethnicities and ages, and current participants include a 94 year old and a three month old baby!”, Pam adds. “We offer safe spaces without judgement where everyone is welcomed, accepted and listened to. No one is means tested and no one has to register.”

Many of the charity’s participants live in temporary accommodation, whilst also managing additional challenges such as substance abuse, poor mental and physical health, and loneliness. Inverness Foodstuff use a holistic approach, and by working in integrated ways, the charity have harnessed the value of the third sector by breaking down barriers across sectors for the benefit of the community.

“It’s through our partnership work with organisations like the Highland Council, NHS Highland, and Highlife Highland that we can help participants access the support and assistance they require”, Pam says. “We know some life experiences can make people reluctant to engage with mainstream services, and so we bring the services to them and break down these barriers.”

With integration being at the forefront of their work, participants benefited from financial gains of £33k in unclaimed benefits and successful appeals in 2023, thanks to the charity organising for Citizen’s Advice Bureau to attend their cafe every two weeks. 

Inverness Foodstuff are aware of the challenges and barriers ahead. But Pam remains optimistic that the impact of the third sector in putting people and communities at the centre of their own lives will strengthen the charity moving forward.

“There will be challenges this year, not least ensuring we are able to attract funding”, Pam says. “However, there will also be opportunities, yet unexplored, to develop new and exciting initiatives with our partners, which will enable us to provide so much more than just a meal for our participants.”

You can read more about Inverness Foodstuff on their website: https://invernessfoodstuff.co.uk

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