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Bath Square meals Project

The “Bath Square Meals” project was the brainchild of W. Bro Trevor Quartermaine from the Royal Cumberland Lodge of MMMTI and Bro. Malcolm Toogood the Junior Warden of the Royal Sussex Mark Lodge 177. They enlisted the help of W. Bro Neil Hawes, (Royal Sussex Mark 177) W. Bro Roger Surry and W. Bro David Dixon (both Royal Cumberland Mark TI) to set up the Management Committee to oversee the project.

When the Country went into the first Lockdown at the end of March 2020 all Masonic activity in the Temple at Old Orchard Street in Bath stopped with immediate effect.

The Trustees of the Bath Masonic Hall Trust were acutely aware of the threat that placed on the full-time professional Chef employed at the Hall, Mr Ben Hayward.

The Trustees met and decided to support ongoing charitable activities in the area feeding elderly and vulnerable people across Bath, Keynsham, Midsomer Norton and Radstock. They realised that having a full-time chef in a professional kitchen enabled them to fund a substantial programme of frozen ready meals that could be produced at a very reasonable cost.

The Committee and Ben as the Chef liaised closely with the Local Authority to develop a menu of healthy nutritious meals that were low in fat, sugar and salt. They consisted of meat and vegetarian main meal options, portions of vegetable and a variety of puddings. All the meals included labelling which identified the ingredients used, any potential allergens, storage and cooking instructions. The operation was up and running within ten days.

Using their well-established links with the local community several local organisations and charities were quickly identified who would benefit from the receipt of frozen meals. These included the three Council run Children’s Centres at St Martins in Bath, Keynsham CC and Radstock CC. Also, the local charities Mercy In Action, Sporting Family Change, Southside Family Centre, Bath City Farm, The Hub at Mulberry Bath, the Curo “Wellbeing Hub” and Threeways School in Bath.

In total these organisations and charities were supporting in excess of 350 vulnerable families across Bath and North East Somerset. More than 1500 people.

The original aims for the delivery of the frozen meals were that they were to be targeted at elderly and vulnerable people and families across Bath, to include those that were clinically vulnerable and had been asked to shield. The most important factor was that they were to be produced and delivered free of charge to those in need.

In April it was envisaged that the whole project would only last for a few weeks. However, due to the overwhelming generosity of the Lodges and other Orders in Bath and Keynsham (including numerous donations from individual Brethren) the project grew from strength to strength. The project was also magnificently supported by two very generous donations, one from the MCF and another from the Mark Benevolent Fund for Somerset.

As the Summer holidays quickly approached the Management Committee realised that there was a continuing demand from those children and their families who would have been in receipt of free school meals. At that point the meals were also increasingly being used as an important addition to food boxes that were being delivered to some of the areas most elderly and extremely vulnerable residents.

As the months rolled on the operation became slicker and more cost effective. This enabled the Committee to continue with the provision of meals for far longer than was ever envisaged. To date, just ten days before Christmas, Ben and the Team have produced and delivered over 28,000 containers of frozen ready meals. To cover the cost of this, the Lodges and other Orders have raised somewhere in the region of £46,000 since April.

We are currently taking delivery of “Christmas Dinners” for distribution next week to vulnerable families in Bath, also a number of elderly and isolated older people living alone and the Bath Masonic Widows. In total 100 individual meals (300 containers), consisting of Christmas Casserole, Dauphinoise potatoes with vegetables and Christmas Pudding and Custard. In the photo below the 'delivery team' for Monday 21st December were joined by David Medlock, PGM of Somerset Craft. Left to right are, Alan Dolman, David Medlock, Martyn Russel and David Dixon.

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It has been quite remarkable how well received this initiative has been. Speaking to the local charities they have been delighted to be able to provide nutritious ready meals to their clients across Bath and the surrounding area. The response from the recipients has been heart-warming.

The question often asked of us by recipients is “Why would the Freemasons go to all this trouble to feed my family?” This is quite a difficult question for a Freemason to answer directly, because caring for others is part of every Lodge’s DNA. When a need arises anywhere in the world, our Fraternity is normally towards the front of the queue in offering support. This time the need was right on our doorstep.

David Dixon
22nd December 2020

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