Zest For Life: Food, support and laughter in the face of hardship

3 March 2021

Lunch club Zest4life began in 2014 to help older Malvern residents get healthy, make new friends and stay connected to their community. With a ‘philosophy of fun’ the group is led by charismatic organiser Michael Lawrence, who calls the service a ‘conversation and laughter lunch’.

In any given week you’ll find anything from a conga line (which Michael dubs ‘musical medicine’) to an impromptu singalong. “Our guests range from as young as 50 up to 95 years old with most in their 70’s or 80’s,” Michael says. “Our activities suit all ages. If you can’t get up and dance you can clap, sing or hum. Everyone plays a part.”

Zest4life serves guests a two-course meal, all using FareShare food. Michael says: “We meet once a week and offer a table service with unlimited drinks for £4, with about 30-35 people using the service in total.”

For Michael, having to close the doors of the lunch service during lockdown was a devastating blow, but he and the team have managed to find a way to support those most in need. One thing Michael is very aware of is the impact the lockdown could have on people’s mental health and he is committed to doing what he can to make sure those who rely on Zest4life as a social outlet are not forgotten.

Michael and the team have stayed in touch with regular guests to check in on their needs, offering a delivery service to people in isolation.

Laughter is a big part of the lunch and Michael likes to entertain the group with his weekly stand-up routine. He has started to send out a weekly newsletter with updates on the service and of course his list of jokes for the week. Some guests don’t have access to email so he has provided print outs to go along with the food deliveries. The lockdown has also given Michael time to look after his garden and in addition to the food (and of course the jokes) Michael has been giving out plants for people to look after during lockdown.

“The people we supply are so grateful. They really are delighted to get anything and they are happy that someone cares enough to visit them. We have been trying to engage people in any way we can and help out if they are stuck in any way.”

“It’s great for the volunteers too. They are keen to give something back, especially at this time and they get great pleasure from seeing the smiles on the faces of those we deliver to”.

Zest4life hope they can open their doors again soon and continue celebrating life through laughter, connection and food.