Visit to The Phoenix Centre

In the centre of the lovely historical town of Lewes is the Phoenix Centre. The Phoenix Centre provides day care to people over the age of 55, who need care and support due to living with Dementia, Alzheimer’s, effects of a stroke or a learning disability. This allows their carers and family to get some respite and as well as providing them with support. The Phoenix Centre also host other services that their users can access including counselling, sight testing, a foot care service and a smoking cessation clinic.

I met with Andrea from the Phoenix Centre – who have worked with FareShare Sussex for over 20 years – to see what wonderful work they do there and to look at how they use all the food which they receive from FareShare. As well as receiving weekly deliveries of food from us at FareShare Sussex, the Phoenix Centre also collect food directly from Tesco’s through FareShare Foodcloud, another project of FareShare, which complements our service.

The Phoenix Centre use our food towards their daily lunches for their approximately 20 daily users (plus visitors from the community and local Alzheimer’s group) and for providing snacks. The lunches are always warm, and tend to be traditional British “meat and two vegetables” style as that it what the clients prefer. Snacks are left out in the waiting area for when users are waiting to be picked up and when possible these are healthy, such as these oranges which FareShare delivered this week!

I arrived just as lunch was being served, and on this occasion the menu was delicious gammon, potato, broccoli and peppers followed by an amazing looking apricot crumble for dessert. Andrea explained that although the staff have tried to introduce different staple meals such as rice and pasta they just are never as popular with their older users who can be quite particular with their likes and dislikes. It can be challenging at times to meet to both the desires of their users and use the food that comes in from FareShare and Foodcloud, but Andrea has trained her fantastic team to ensure that very little gets wasted. Leftovers get frozen, along with anything that cannot be eaten immediately, and menus are adapted to cope with the last minute availability of certain foods.

Andrea and her incredible team are ambitious about supporting their users as far as possible and sometimes users can take home tins and fresh fruit to ensure that whilst not at the centre they are still eating a nutritious diet.

Meals are very important at the Phoenix Centre, and many service users look forward to them. Staff there explained how meal times calmed down users who may have become aggravated as a side effect of Alzheimer’s. It was also apparent from the cheerful atmosphere and the large empty plates in the dining hall that users really did enjoy their meals, and I was fortunate enough to chat to several users between mains and desserts.

Shortly after Andrea had mentioned to me that they sometimes get a welcome abundance of bacon from FareShare, one service user said that their favourite meal at the centre was liver and bacon.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how large the portions were that the clear majority of users were eating, which is testament to the brilliant chef and cooks, and the high quality of their food.

The food FareShare provides is also enjoyed by members of the community who come to the centre for community lunches with the users. These are generally older members of the community who come for the lovely food and some company, and whom often go on it recommend the centre to friends or family, or become users themselves in the future. This is great for the centre and the community as it helps to alleviate loneliness and introduce new people to the centre.

It was brilliant to see all the hard work that is happening at the Phoenix Centre Lewes, and to see the surplus food we deliver supporting them. Many thanks to Andrea for arranging the visit.