The tireless volunteers at a community cafe for armed forces veterans in Edinburgh provide hot meals for ex-service personnel in need thanks to donations from food charity FareShare – and the Asda Fight Hunger Create Change programme means they're now receiving more fresh food.
The Veterans Community Cafe is one of the charities and good causes in central and south east Scotland that receives supplies from FareShare's distribution centre in Leith. Our scheme, which donates £20 million to FareShare and The Trussell Trust over the next three years, has enabled FareShare to refit their centre so it can receive and redistribute more fresh food.
Gary Anderson, the community champion at our nearby Chesser store, joined one of the cafe's coffee evenings to see for himself how the Asda Fight Hunger Create Change campaign is helping.
One of the volunteers he met, Royal Artillery veteran Matt Deeming (pictured above on the right with Gary), explained more about the cafe's work.
Matt said: "There is a large veterans' community in Edinburgh. The cafe was set up by veterans for veterans around three years ago and I joined two years ago.
"I'd had a bit of a wobble with my mental health and needed some help, so I went to Veterans First Point which is linked to the NHS.
"That led me to the man who runs this cafe, Keith Mackenzie, who's also a buddhist chaplain. I found that by helping here I got as much back as I put in.
"We do a Christmas Day meal for veterans and prepare food parcels, but we also focus on mindfulness – we do tai chi and meditation, teaching the guys to concentrate on the moment.
"The night Gary visited we had chicken and leek gratin which has been donated by FareShare, which was delicious.
"We're such a small organisation we exist more or less entirely on handouts, so we couldn't do what we do without FareShare, and it's fantastic that such a large organisation as Asda is helping FareShare support us.
"We get all sorts – whole chickens, haggis, fresh vegetables, fruit – which we just wouldn't be able to afford. We're so grateful for any help we can get.
"It was great to meet Gary and find out how he can help us in the future. He's mentioned holding fundraising days for us in the Chesser store and possibly the other Edinburgh stores too."
Lynne Collie, from FareShare Central & South East Scotland which serves the charity, added: “The community cafe has only been a member of FareShare for the last six months, but in that time we’ve really developed a close relationship. They’re grateful of any food we provide and their range of services and help available makes a real difference for veterans in the local area.
“Now, thanks to Asda’s support, we’ve refitted our warehouse so that we’ll be able to not only enhance our service for the cafe, but also recruit even more charities and community groups like theirs across central and south east Scotland – tackling food insecurity in a really impactful way.”
Gary said: "It was a brilliant night. There are a large number of veterans in Edinburgh so it's fantastic to chat to everyone at a group like this and find out how we can help them."