Hot meals in Holbeck courtesy of HEA

I met with chef Julie Marshall to find out more about Holbeck Elderly Aid’s hot food service. Julie and her team of volunteers prepare hot lunches every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday as well as a monthly Sunday lunch and a supper club.

HEA works with the food charity FairShare which distributes food that is approaching its sell by date, but is still fresh. They then plan a varied two week menu, which will include a soup and such dishes as beef and onion pie, or a chop with fresh vegetables.

At just £5 for a three course meal in good company, the meals served at St Matthew’s Community Centre are a real bargain. Transport can also be provided to collect you from your home and return you afterwards.

For those that are housebound, HEA has recently introduced an Outreach “Meals On Wheels” service on Tuesdays. The freshly cooked meals are sealed and kept and hot and delivered to your door throughout the LS11 postcode area at a cost of just £2. Julie’s hopeful this service will increase to more days per week as the numbers using the service build through the year.

Julie has a background in catering having trained at Thomas Danby College and run kitchens in old people’s homes, prisons and hotels. She then spent 20 years in the financial services sector and thought she had put cheffing behind her. But last June she stepped in to cover HEA’s service for two weeks … and she’s still there.

Julie admits the kitchen equipment at St Matthew’s doesn’t quite match up to a restaurant kitchen, but she still managed to serve 90 Christmas dinners, cooked on the range cooker last December. HEA are gradually upgrading the equipment, last year installing a proper extraction hood.

Of course Julie can’t do all this on her own and is full of praise for her team of volunteers: “They’re absolutely brill!” she enthuses. She tells me about Gerry, a pensioner who helps regularly. At first he just pottered, but then Julie asked him to help prepare the vegetables. From there she taught him how to make a quiche and he’s taken these new skills back to his own kitchen at home. One thing he couldn’t stand was cabbage, but when Julie showed him how to fry it with leeks he was converted.

There’s a great camaraderie amongst the volunteers and they are always looking for new helpers to join the team. The service is in great hands and looks set to grow and grow.