With more than two thousand cooked meals prepared for people isolated and vulnerable since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, Louth coffee shop owners Mike Bristow, his wife Angie, and their son Jamie are thinking about Phase 2 of their meals on wheels service. That could mean carrying on with the twice-weekly deliveries until next spring – by which time they’d have prepared about 13,000 meals.
The family-run Larders Coffee House in Louth is at the heart of a network supplying meals to Louth, Alford, Spilsby, Horncastle and Skegness, with meals cooked on site and distributed by volunteer drivers. The latest development is co-operation with the Rotary Club in Skegness, which delivers up to 30 of their meals to its own network.
Said Mike: “When we started this we never imagined we’d be where we are now, but it’s really rewarding, and we’re still smiling. We have no exit strategy. We’re talking about how to extend the service until next spring. You can’t just stop. What would people do then?”
Preparing meals twice weekly is a major operation for the coffee shop, which has fridges and freezers on the top two floors of its historic three-storey building. Says Mike: “We’re taking deliveries daily. We have 30 or 40 kg of vegetables coming in every week, and I’ve just got six kilos of pork shoulder from the butcher, who gives us an excellent deal. All our suppliers are being very helpful; they’re really good.”
Offering meals is about much more than food, say Freemasons Mike and his son Jamie, who joined Eccles Lodge at Spilsby on the same evening. “People call with their orders, and we didn’t realise just how much we were helping. Lots of the people we help don’t have many people to talk to, so the interaction with us is really important to them, and it’s really rewarding for us. What’s more, without the Freemason volunteer drivers, co-ordinated by Phil Odling, we wouldn’t be able to provide food over such a wide area.”
The Bristows offer a menu with several choices, the most popular of which is a roast. “People can’t resist twice-cooked roast beef with all the trimmings,” said Mike. “The numbers we cater for go up and down as people order when they need us.”
Family is at the heart of what Mike, Angie, Jamie, and the Freemasons are doing. “I couldn’t do this without my wife. It’s probably going to cost me big time when this is over,” he added.