Throughout multiple lockdowns, the support we’ve received from the local business community has been nothing short of inspiring. Six By Nico is one of the many organisations who have supported us with in kind donations – this is their story.
– Words by Abbie (Six By Nico).
In a time where uncertainty for the ‘you or I’ meant whether or not we would have to start looking for a new job whilst being paid furlough, and disruption meant no longer being able to socialise or hug our families, but having the privilege to Zoom call or FaceTime. Fear meant panic buying in the supermarket, and being lucky enough to do so. However, this was not the case for a lot of people, including people who are homeless. Uncertainty, disruption and fear came in the form of not knowing when the next meal would come from, little to no access to basic sanitation against an invisible, deadly virus and disruption of their usual ways and means of surviving. Luckily, charities such as Mustard Tree have stayed open throughout lockdown and are operating as key workforces to help those in need, seeing their client base increase extensively from 500 people a month to 1000 a week during the height of the Pandemic. They haven’t found it easy, fearing that if the doors closed then it would be forever.
Usually, I work Front of House at a restaurant in Spring Gardens called Six by Nico, around a 10-minute drive from Mustard Tree’s hub in Ancoats. After just over 6 weeks of Furlough, I was taken off and told to come back to work. Entering the restaurant was eerie at first and didn’t look anything like the way it did when I had left back in March. The layout had been swapped for what I was soon to find out was the ‘packing station’ of our new ‘Home by Nico’ experience. Lockdown has undoubtedly hit the industry hard with many having to adapt their normal service to takeaway, which I think I can vouch for all waitresses out there is a LOT different to ‘service’ as we know it.
Filling my furloughed 6 weeks with some voluntary work, it came to light just how many people are vulnerable and struggling during Covid-19 and the importance of the charities that are still operating, delivering food parcels and offering support. Coming back to work slightly later than others, I was happy to find out that plans had already been put in place to donate the spare food leftover from Home by Nico to Mustard Tree.
The Home by Nico boxes are packed full of dressings and sides that help to replicate that greatly missed dining experience at your own dinner table during lockdown, it is a mix match of these elements that Mustard Tree receive in abundance every Monday. With the menu changing weekly, adopting a different theme that showcases a place or memory, the food we donate is never repetitive or boring giving their creditable chefs a lot to play with.
After seeing snippets of what they do at Mustard Tree when delivering food, I was keen to find out more so I got in contact with Jack Barton and Rosie Field from the management team. I was grateful to Rosie for taking the time to show me around the charity hub where I met some of the friendly volunteers and seen how the donations gratefully received were being used in their on site training kitchen.
Rosie says ‘’To ensure we are compliant with government guidelines we have carried out risk assessments and shared the findings with the people we have on site. We take cleaning and hand washing procedures seriously. Half of the staff work from home to reduce numbers on site. We keep 2m apart, there is a constant supply of PPE and it is mandatory on the shop floor and whilst interacting with the public’’ and it was obvious this was taken very seriously during my visit.
It was hard to imagine the canteen area filled with enough chairs and tables to accommodate the 100 or so people that would have gathered for lunch pre-lockdown. Rosie describes the current numbers of staff as a ‘’skeleton team’’ who are working hard to adapt to the ever changing government advice to keep the charity ticking along and helping those most in need.
Rosie, like the rest of the team at Mustard Tree are extremely grateful for the donations from Six by Nico, as they are for all donations that come through the door. She says ‘’the donations from Six by Nico have been a great source of joy. In particular, we love the variety it provides. Without the donations we wouldn’t be able to acquire such a varied menu’’ as she follows on to explain how ‘’during the height of lockdown we went from spending £4,000 a month to £8,000
a week on food, so the contribution from Six by Nico has helped us reduce our costs and allows us to focus more investment into our food clubs’’.
Knowing we are only one of many businesses within the hospitality industry who have pulled together to support our local communi
ty during this time reflects the amiable nature of the trade. The team here in Manchester are pleased to be a part of this,
sharing a weekly glimmer of positivity from our team at Six by Nico to the team at Mustard Tree. We take fulfillment in knowing that our weekly donations not only offer something to look forward too, a positive incentive for their staff and a thank you to their volunteers but is also central to conversation within the hub that leads to positive change. Knowing that these simple acts of kindness are taking place across the UK shows a large sense of togetherness and community in such difficult times.
As lockdown restrictions ease and the food and drink scene of Manchester regains some life, I hope this momentum does not slow. It is important that we all remember how Covid-19 has affected people and the knock on effect it will have on their lives. With people being pushed into poverty and others becoming lonelier and more vulnerable than ever before, it is still absolutely crucial to continue supporting our local communities and the charities that operate within.