Prof. Suzanne Piscopo from the Dept. of Health, Physical Education & Consumer Studies recently collaborated with Andrè Bonello from the Research and Advocacy Unit of Caritas Malta to establish and cost the contents of a set of Solidarity Boxes as emergency assistance to households whose income has been significantly reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The contents of the boxes were based on investigation into which items were considered basic necessities to help the different household members achieve a decent living which went beyond feeding themselves.
Four boxes were developed, targeting a household of two adults and two children; a household with two adults, one child and one infant; a household with one single parent and two children; and a household with two elderly people.
The categories of items in the boxes were:
- Food (non-perishable)
- Vegetables & Fruit (fresh)
- Cleaning & Laundry
- Personal Care
- Baby & Nursery
- Stationery & Hobby
The main criterion for choosing the contents of the boxes was promotion of holistic health based on sustainability principles. The goal was to provide ingredients to help produce meals and snacks for approximately 14 days, as well as materials for household care and laundry, for personal care and for children’s educational and leisure activities for at least 14 days, but sometimes longer. A special package of food and baby care items was created for the household where there is an infant.
The cost of the four Solidarity Boxes varied based on the number of people in the household and the age of the members. The costing exercise was carried out at the end of April 2020. The box for the household with an infant emerged as most expensive with the Baby, Stationery and Hobby category representing the highest proportion of the cost. In the other boxes, the Food, including Fresh Vegetables and Fruit category represented the highest proportion.
The professional association of Home Economists in Action, whose members are primarily graduates of the Faculty of Education, was also invited by Prof. Piscopo as a collaborator on the project. Stefania Calleja, a qualified Home Economics teacher, designed 9 recipe cards for savoury and sweet dishes based on the ingredients in the Solidarity Boxes. The emphasis was on ease of preparation, low-moderate cost and versatility. The recipe cards were prepared in Maltese and English and also included a variety of tips, such as how to make the dishes in advance, store them well, use leftovers and make ingredient substitutions. All the recipe cards are available to download from the HEiA Facebook Page.
The Caritas Malta Solidarity Boxes were launched on the International Day of Families - May 15, 2020 and received extensive media coverage. Further presentations to other concerned stakeholders and in order to extend the collaboration are planned for the month of June.
Full details of the different boxes and an explanatory note can be found online.