As the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown continue to impact some of the most vulnerable in our communities, we are sharing stories about some of the awesome individuals and communities making such a positive difference across Brighton & Hove.
This second collection of hero stories will focus on how our communities and staff have responded to the overwhelming rise in food poverty as lockdown took its toll. Many families and individuals already living in difficult situations have had Covid-19 negatively impact their income as well as their access to essential supplies.
The foodbanks and food access projects we work with serve 1,400 families across the city. Some of the support we have provided during the crisis includes:
- developing new referral and supply processes, new risk management and safeguarding protocols
- recruiting new volunteers
- creating and maintaining hyper-local systems to coordinate essential supplies for vulnerable self-isolators - meal delivery and shopping schemes
- working with local grocers and pharmacies, establishing payment methods and safe delivery
- supporting community groups to transition to take on vital new activities.
- supporting groups to repurpose community buildings into food hubs, storing essentials
TDC works in some of the poorest neighbourhoods in the city and so it was not surprising that many of our community groups found their attention drawn toward making sure the vunerable in their community had food. This was further complicated by many groups relying on older volunteers or volunteers with life limiting conditions who were now having to isolate. So, let’s have a look at what this has meant for community members and staff in the neighbourhoods team.
Resilient community response to lockdown: A foodbank adapts
Moulsecoomb and Bevendean is a large suburb in the North East of Brighton. Multiple generations of families live here and although people face many challenges connected to poverty in the area there is a devoted community of people and organisations working together and looking out for each other.
The Bevendean food bank has been running since 2012 and as well as providing food parcels to those who need it, also offers a coffee morning and advice service where people can discuss financial and health concerns. Entirely run by volunteers, the food bank is open every Wednesday for 48 weeks of the year. In 2019 the group supported 212 people to access food with the largest number being 70 families helped during the week before Christmas.
As lockdown began many of the volunteers had to go home to isolate or shield, and services changed to remote working and the Holy Nativity Hall closed to public access. At the same time demand was rising from an average of 20 to 70+ households per week, many of these large families.
Anke, the TDC community worker:
- Liaised with the local authority and the food partnership to ensure the group was following current guidance for this essential activity and being referred to the right service for their household, e.g. referring on to Ageing Well, or Children’s Services for under 5’s.
- Made use of local contacts, Brighton volunteer centre and the university to replenish the volunteer team and double it to include delivery drivers.
- Linked up with local councillors and other community organisations to help increase supplies.
- Supported the remaining volunteer, Mandy, to take on a co-ordination role, risk assessing and planning packing sessions to be as safe & manageable as possible.
You can see some pictures of the Bevendean Food bank volunteers below. As we emerge from lockdown this amazing grassroots activity is now spawning new projects to mitigate long term food poverty through increasing local access to affordable/ low cost healthy food.