Day in the Life: Emma Poulton of Edinburgh's volunteer initiative Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts

Sonya MatthewsSonya Matthews
Sonya Matthews
The business and marketing director at this charity tells us about her daily life as a volunteer


My kids are with their dad this week, so I relish a relative lie-in instead of the usual 6am demand for crumpets. I get ready and head to site after chiselling my car out of last night’s snow - I’ve never had to remove ice from the inside before. I hate early starts but I’m grateful to be productive. I volunteer for many reasons but they certainly aren’t all selfless. Many of my vol-eagues would agree that the sense of purpose and social interaction that Empty Kitchens provides is a lifeline during lockdown.


After making my rounds to check in with our core departments, I get stuck into some porridge - always jumbo oats from Stoats, and whatever raisins or extras I can find to throw in. This is the same breakfast we provide to our clients, forming part of our Day Packs along with soup, a hearty dinner, and bread and snacks.


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Producing 5000 meals a day is not for the fainthearted, plus we rely on donations and volunteers, so there’s usually a new and interesting challenge for the day, whether it’s a shortage of vegetables or another service phoning us in a panic to refer 200 clients. Today, extreme weather is disrupting our deliveries. We’re providing 1400 Day Packs this morning and many of our drivers are snowed in. I put out a Facebook plea for help and we immediately have dozens of responses. The local community never fails to amaze me.


Iggy and JarvisIggy and Jarvis
Iggy and Jarvis

After spending the morning overseeing the operation and dealing with never ending emails, I grab some lentil soup leftover from our hot service before leading a heads of department meeting. Good news, we’ve secured our own premises. Bad news, it doesn’t have a kitchen.


A week is a long time without the kiddos and so their dad is dropping them off for a midweek dinner. We catch up and have a good laugh at my eldest’s suedehead-esque lockdown haircut, before I take mini Paul Weller and his little brother home for a few hours off with cartoons and cuddles.


Empty Kitchens, Full Heart, labelling production lineEmpty Kitchens, Full Heart, labelling production line
Empty Kitchens, Full Heart, labelling production line

Dinnertime always takes place at my most treasured possession - a huge Burmese teak dining table. My boys have phenomenal appetites so on the menu tonight is chicken katsu with a big side of tenderstem broccoli - some of which finds its way to our cats Iggy and Jarvis, who are oddly obsessed with greens.


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I take the boys back to their dad’s before swinging by M&S to pick up a donation. The crate of doughnuts and sourdough that I collect tonight helps to ensure that our clients get to enjoy a moment of indulgence tomorrow.


I get home far too late after finalising some funding applications on site. My eternally-supportive partner, Dan, pretends that he hasn’t enjoyed the opportunity to watch the football and patiently listens to my apologies for abandoning him yet again. I promise him we can get sandwiches from Alby’s at the weekend and I’m forgiven.

For more information or get involved with this charity, which takes food donations and converts them into free meals, see

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