Words: Darren Styles
You can donate £5 by texting Attitude5 to 70480, or donate via JustGiving on our website at attitudemagazinefoundation.com.
The Virgin Atlantic Attitude Awards, powered by Jaguar, which premiere on World Aids Day (Tuesday 1 December) on Attitude’s YouTube channel, are to benefit the Attitude Magazine Foundation for LGBTQ causes.
Attitude’s own registered charity has raised and distributed more than £250,000 since summer 2018 and, in the first of two short films that form part of this year’s show, Celebrity Masterchef winner Riyadh Khalaf has been to visit The Food Chain, a London-based charity that encourages those living with HIV to eat well and stay well.
“It’s the frontline,” explains Khalaf, “those supported by the Food Chain are referred by doctors as, for any number of reasons, they need help at a time of difficulty, and most often are on low or no incomes. They are HIV positive, sometimes with additional complications, and the Food Chain can (and does) make a significant contribution to the long-term health and well-being of those that pass through.”
The premise is straightforward enough: If you eat the right things and do the right things, your body has a stronger immune system and a far better chance of fighting off any number of maladies. But if you can’t afford to shop the basic food groups or, worse, have no idea how to conjure a meal from simple, wholesome ingredients, then your chances are not only limited, but the effect can be life-limiting.
The Food Chain exists, therefore, both to provide food parcels to those who need supplies and guidance, but more importantly to educate the recipients on how to cook and what to cook. Better still, once or twice a week (outside of periods of coronavirus restriction) they’ll provide a decent meal in a social environment with practical demonstrations and discussions on everything from nutrition to mental health.
The impact on the users of the service is significant. We spoke to Neil, who has been supported by the Food Chain, about his experience and the change in his own life circumstances: “I was eating,” he explains, “but eating the wrong things. My weight wasn’t right, I didn’t feel good, and when I came here and saw this huge kitchen I thought there was no chance of me using any of that!
"But the talks and the classes are really good, I’ve learned how to cook, and what to eat. And being part of a group of people with the same challenges I have has helped enormously. It’s like a family, and my mental health has improved massively.”
CEO of the Food Chain, Siobhan Lanigan, takes great pride in the environment they have created: “It’s like a family, right enough. We embrace those who come through our doors and see them through a process of education that provides not only the means to eat healthily, but the tools to keep on doing so long after we’ve played our part. We see people leave in a far better position than they arrived, and many come back to volunteer having reset their lives.”
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The Food Chain will help 300-350 people and families in a typical year, but the impact of COVID-19 is felt here as everywhere. In the latter stages of 2020 this amazing organisation is supporting 500 families, and it’s a safety net that dare not be taken away.
Dr Tristan Barber refers patients from the Royal Free Hospital to the Food Chain, and shudders at the thought of its absence. “The service this charity provides is beyond valuable,” he explains. “It’s led from the heart, but it takes only a few moments of analysis to see and understand the extraordinary range of benefits provided by a group that educates and supports in a time of need. Were it not here I don’t know what we’d do.”
The Attitude Magazine Foundation’s support of the Food Chain is ongoing, to the extent of close to £20,000 to date, but to maintain that position on the frontline we do need further help.
Says the Foundation’s Development Director, Cameron Wood: “We’d encourage readers and supporters of Attitude and the Attitude Awards to find, if they can, just a small contribution to our range of LGBTQ causes.
"You can donate £5 by texting Attitude5 to 70480, or donate via JustGiving on our website at attitudemagazinefoundation.com, and I promise we’ll continue to change and save lives in your name.”
Watch the 2020 Virgin Atlantic Attitude Awards, powered by Jaguar on YouTube from 9pm GMT on World Aids Day Tuesday 1 December (1pm PST, 4pm EST, 10pm CET).