B:friend, a charity alleviating loneliness of older people in South Yorkshire, has launched a cookbook called “b:tasty” which is available on their website. Money that comes from the cookbook, a minimum of £7.50, will go towards their work to combat loneliness and social isolation.
The book chronicles recipes from older neighbours, communications officer Sara Kopecsni saying “they have so much to give back, you know”, and that their team were “big foodies”. Recipes are accompanied by a background story. In addition, it includes ‘dream fantasy’ menus which are – as the name suggests – dream menus the older neighbours would like to eat, including descriptions as to why, with QR codes that redirect you to an audio recording.
One of the recipes, a lemon curd recipe, has a heartwarming backstory. Kopecsni described that the older neighbour which made this recipe had a jar that had been in her family for eighty years which was dedicated to making lemon curd. The recipe’s roots stem back to the second world war – when the older neighbour was a little girl, she would receive flowers from her father who was in the army in Italy on her birthday. When it came to her mother’s birthday, though, no flowers came, only lemons.
Favourite food evokes memories
Kopecsni said: “It was a very funny story because everybody was joking about it, that you know, everyone has got flowers, but his wife only got lemons, but obviously, back in those days, lemons were very valuable.”
The recipes are diverse not only in stories, but also in their origins and content.
“We had recipes from Poland, from Jamaica, you know, people who move to South Yorkshire or Derbyshire from a different country.” Kopecsni described.
“We also have a cocktail recipe – a limoncello cocktail.”
Highlighting the significance of the cookbook, Kopecsni said: “I think when you speak to people about their favourite food it always brings up memories so it’s an instant thing, and it’s an instant connection, because you know, we all have to eat, and most people love to eat, so no matter where you are from you know, what your background is, we all have that connection that we all you know sit down and share a meal and share a story.”
The cookbook can be found on their website at www.letsbfriend.org.uk.
Expanding the mission against loneliness since 2017
B:friend has been around for almost seven years and has been expanding, initially starting in Doncaster and now covering South Yorkshire, part of Derbyshire and most recently Nottinghamshire.
They allocate ‘befrienders’ to older neighbours to spend one hour a week with each other with the goal of cultivating friendships. Half of their befriending pairs have lasted a year.
Kopecsni explained that it isn’t people that live alone that are necessarily the only people lonely and in need of support – some people might be living with a family member, possibly someone that works full time, and still be in need of a friend and company.
She emphasised that loneliness and isolation can have a “very severe impact” on your health, especially mental health, that it can be equivalent to “smoking around 15 cigarettes a day”, and can cause both coronary heart disease and an increased risk of dementia.
B:friend also has 11 social clubs with activities geared toward improving wellbeing. They offer a wide variety of things to take part in, such as tattoo design, mandala art and making mocktails.
Kopecsni said: “We very much think that we don’t want to offer stereotypical older people’s activities, so we don’t do things like bingo and it’s much more than a coffee morning.”
Becoming a befriender
Doncaster museums have collaborated with b:friend previously, allowing for sessions about the history of medicine, the Tudor times and more. ‘Armchair travels’ are also among the sessions B:friend has done, which Kopecsni described as a “cultural appreciation session”, which includes games, activities and snacks based on a country “far far away”.
People who would like to be a befriender can apply on their website. Additionally, people can refer an older person – aged sixty-five or older – to b:friend through the website’s ‘Make a Referral’ page.