“All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”- Julian of Norwich
The Well, based in St Peters House on Oxford Road was set up as a response to student food insecurity in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. The name ‘The Well’ was taken from a quote from Julian of Norwich, which was written during the outbreak of the plague in the 1300s. Her radical optimism during this period is what inspired The Well to honour her in their name.
During the Covid-19 lockdowns, many students were able to return home for family support. However, there were also those left – often unseen and feeling forgotten – on campus. Some of these students were estranged from their families, some were Care Leavers, and some were asylum-seeking students with no home to return to. These students found they were cut off from their usual ‘safety nets’ of support. They also found themselves part of a stigmatised community, as they were blamed by the media for the spread of the virus. They often ended up suffering from poor mental health, isolation, and no access to finance or food.
What do they do?
The Well provides a weekly ‘Well Pack’ which includes meal kits for each night of the week. They design the menu around the daily recipes, and each pack comes with step-by-step instructions and everything needed to cook up a storm!
The team adapts recipes to use surplus food from FareShare GM. Each recipe is designed to complement one another and reduce food waste. They also make sure that there is enough food in each pack to supplement breakfast, lunch and snacks. This enables students who are facing food insecurity to eat nutritious food throughout the week. Students unable to cook fresh meals for themselves due to mental or physical health difficulties are provided with ready-made or cooked and frozen meals.
In 2020, 35% of students surveyed reported low or very low levels of food security. 41% were worried that their food would run out. Students also experienced increased mental health struggles, which was directly associated with the low levels of food security. A more recent study, published in 2023, suggests that the problem hasn’t gone away since the pandemic ended. Student hardship is particularly prominent in the North West, where 60% of respondents indicated they were facing food insecurity.
Who do the Well accept referrals from?
The Well accepts self-referrals and referrals from staff at any of the Manchester Universities. They will accept the referral of anyone who asks for help (or is referred) who is a student or staff member at any of the Manchester Universities, and – depending on capacity – can take referrals from within the M15 community.
What else do they offer?
The Well is part of the wider work of St Peter’s House, the Chaplaincy to the Universities in Manchester. Alongside their food offer, The Well also provide a diverse range of holistic well-being resources. They offer an accessible and diverse Wholeness Programme, and a volunteer-led community café – Milk & Honey. The team at St Peter’s House are always available to talk to and be alongside the campus community.