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Rakesh’s story: Enthusiastic about volunteering… and food!

03 June 2021

Our Family Action FOOD Clubs are more than just a means to ensure families can access quality food at a discount and prevent food waste. They’re also community hubs and spaces for our volunteers and people using the service to share their unique viewpoints and enthusiasm. Here, in a personal account, volunteer Rakesh does just that.

My wife, Joanne, and I moved to Bath in summer 2019 from California with our two dogs. I’ve worked in a range of industries including engineering, aviation, nanotech and renewable energy and, more fittingly, I now work as a chef – managing a kitchen in a small restaurant. Despite the range of work I’ve had, however, I have always been keen to volunteer; especially with charities that deal with social issues and, during the March 2020 lockdown, I met a friend who first told me about the FOOD Club.

It was a perfect fit as I love being able to contribute my skills while also knowing we’re doing some good, and I also appreciate the friendships I’ve made through the work. It is great being able to contribute to people’s visits by showing good humour, a smile (behind the mask, obviously!) and even extras at special times of year – for example, we managed to give out Easter eggs, and special games and food at Christmas. 

The Family Action volunteer recruitment process was painless – especially since I already had food hygiene certificates from my day job. I met the local FOOD Club support worker and regional coordinator in the first week, where I was shown the various roles. As the club is based in a Children’s Centre, I also completed a DBS check online.

Personally, I rarely follow recipes and enjoy creating something from what’s in the fridge/cupboard – or indeed, the yellow sticker aisle at the supermarket – so it’s perfect for me.”

There’s always a sense of excitement regarding what’s available each week at the FOOD Club. We have seen a real mix of foods including plantains, cassava, artichokes and whole salmon. We also had the whole spectrum of ‘fake’ meat products and some unusual alternative milk such as pistachio and hazelnut. As a chef, it’s always great to share ideas about how to prepare unusual items with members to encourage them to try something they wouldn’t normally buy at the supermarket and I really enjoy hearing about how people from different cultural backgrounds use certain things.

Personally, I rarely follow recipes and enjoy creating something from what’s in the fridge/cupboard – or indeed, the yellow sticker aisle at the supermarket – so it’s perfect for me. If I were to pick a favourite recipe it would be something Thai, like ‘pad gra prow’… a beef, basil, garlic, chilli stir fry on jasmine rice with a crispy fried egg on top. 

Although the food at the club is always high quality and within the use by date waste is always at the forefront of our minds. What has surprised me the most is the volume, and type of food available at FOOD club, which makes me wonder about the scale of waste and inefficiency in society as a whole. If If you are interested in finding out more about Fareshare and their supply chain food waste operation, it makes interesting reading. We’ve seen the number of users at the food club increase steadily from under 10 families in July 2020 when the club first opened, to 20-30 families in April 2021. It has been eye-opening to see the number of families using this service, especially in such a seemingly affluent area as Bath.

Volunteering has allowed me to be active and engage with people even during lockdown. Although there is an element of sadness knowing that services like FOOD Club need to exist, it is fulfilling to be involved as we are able to be part of the community. At the same time, I can share something important in my life and also fills a need for others – food! If I were to offer advice to someone who is thinking about volunteering, I would say do it! It is rewarding and you’ll meet some amazing people, create new friendships and once in a while try some weird and/or delicious snacks!

Find out more about our Food Clubs and other food programmes and how you can get involved.