Find out what ‘Women Connect First’ are up to

Women Connect First (WCF) is a charity that works to empower Black and Minority Ethnic Women in Cardiff and South East Wales who are experiencing deprivation, discrimination and exclusion. They offer a range of different services, support and activities to improve their livelihoods and develop employability skills. Among other projects WCF runs a range of classes including IT, cooking and English lessons. They run a helpline, creche for children, arts workshops and much more!

Under normal circumstances WCF were running their ‘World Café On Wheels’, a community kitchen that opens on Fridays. Volunteers would come in for a few hours, cook a lot of food and then share it with the public. This gave everyone an opportunity to connect and socialise over nutritious, freshly cooked and affordable meal. It also gave the volunteers an opportunity to develop their cooking skills, receive catering training and boost their employability. 

During COVID they started the ‘Wales Community Café on Wheels’ project which is funded by the Welsh Government. It involves cooking healthy and nutritious meals daily and delivering them to the most vulnerable people in the community. The ‘Wales Community Café on Wheels’ mainly supports elderly and disabled people, who they have supporting since November and will continue to until the end of the project. They also support a number of younger people, usually on a shorter-term basis, mostly those that had to self- isolate due to covid or those that are recovering from the virus.

The team is made up of 6 staff members: project coordinator, project assistant, delivery driver and 3 cooks (previous volunteers, but are now the members of staff), as well as 4 volunteers who help with deliveries. They cook 3 course meals for their beneficiaries. The first course consists of a cup of soup that changes every day, for example mixed vegetable soup, mushroom soup or lentil soup. The main meal can be anything from different kinds of curry (Indian, Bangladeshi, Thai), rice and couscous based dishes, roasted vegetables and meat to pasta bakes. Dessert is usually fresh fruit, home-made cake or pastry, yogurt or a fruit salad. Everything is cooked from scratch and is made with fresh ingredients.

WCF started with FareShare about 6 weeks ago to support their Wales Community Café on Wheels and they currently receive a weekly delivery. 

We get a delivery from FareShare on Thursdays and I put some time aside to come up with new recipes to include all the fresh produce that we get. This is great because it gives people variety and they get to try things that they would not normally eat. We always use 100% of what we get from you and there is never any waste’

‘The food from FareShare allows us to sometimes give people a little extra that we wouldn’t normally include, for example an extra side dish or bigger variety of fruit and vegetables in their dishes.’

They are very flexible and adapt to their beneficiaries’ cultural and dietary requirements, and the general consensus on the meals is extremely positive. 

‘Our beneficiaries appreciate everything and we rarely get any complaints. Anything that is fresh, nutritious and home-made people just love.’

The improvement in their beneficiaries’ health has also been noted and it is clear that the meals really do make a difference. 

‘Without it a lot of them would not be able to have a hot, freshly made meal each day. A number of the people we support were suffering from malnourishment before we started supporting them. Since we have worked with them their health has improved and they say that they feel much better, look better and have less health problems. It is just brilliant!’

WCF’s membership with Fare Share has allowed them to stop overspending their food budget as it provides them with extra supplies to make the impressive 3 course meals possible.

‘Being with FareShare definitely saves us money. The food is very good quality and is often organic. The value of the items we receive is normally higher than other deliveries we get and we normally receive a weekly delivery worth 4 times what we pay monthly which is great’. 

When they deliver the meals WCF also try to connect and socialise with the people they support. They check up on their beneficiaries, make sure they are okay, give them reassurance that they are not alone and support them in many different ways.

‘We don’t just cook and deliver. We connect with them and support them as well’

WCF would love to continue with FareShare after the pandemic but it will depend on their funding. They are hoping to extend the project, expand the kitchen at some point and start running a morning and afternoon shift in order to take the number of meals they make in a day from 40 to 80. 

We are very proud to be supporting WCF and the Wales Community Café on Wheels. They are doing fantastic things for the community and making fresh, healthy and nutritious meals for their beneficiaries which is so great to see!