Inside the crisis - Food banks and community
As the lockdown enters its fourth week, food banks across the UK are experiencing a dramatic increase in demand and a downturn in donations. Early research by The Food Foundation indicates that as many as 8 million adults in the UK have suffered food insecurity since the UK lockdown began, adjusting meal sizes and worrying about where their next meal will come from.
This pressure on food banks has only been intensified by a shortfall in donations.
“Food donations have gone down dramatically as people have been stockpiling for themselves,” a spokesperson for the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), which supports a nationwide network of 250 food banks, explains.
Hereford Food Bank has found working with local businesses to be vital. Bartosham Farm Dairies, Mouse Trap Cheese and a local baker have all stepped up to meet the food bank’s need for fresh food. Additionally, in the interests of safety and social distancing, food parcels are now being delivered to clients across Herefordshire by local taxi firms. Donations are still being accepted via the food bank boxes in local supermarkets.
Jaquie Alsop, Manager at Hereford Food Bank, said:
“It’s been fantastic that this network of local businesses is all working together to support the food bank and those in need. Like many companies, local taxi firms have seen their usual business all but wiped out by the lockdown situation and so, by us using their services, we are supporting each other.”
“We’ve also been so grateful to be able to source fresh food from local suppliers. We’ve even been receiving 500 free-range, organic eggs per week from Herefordshire farms!”
There are no official government figures on how the lockdown has affected food bank use, but across both Herefordshire and Shropshire, foodbanks are reporting dramatic surges in demand. As with other local business and individuals stepping up at this time of crisis, Connexus is providing assistance to buy supplies, donating a total of £2,700 to 18 local food banks and local support charities.
Funding comes from the Connexus Community Development Fund, established to support local communities working together.
In more normal times, projects supported by this fund include bringing unloved outdoor space back to life, funding for community groups and skill development programs for younger people. Today, these funds are being used to provide some support for a society battling just one of the many consequences of this global pandemic.
Up the road from Hereford in Ludlow, local church groups report similar pressures on local food banks. Data from Churches Together Around Ludlow (CTAL) shows that 277 households in Ludlow are reliant or semi-reliant on food parcels and this number is set to increase in April.
Hands Together Ludlow, a charity supporting those in need by bringing together local support organisations and food banks. They’ve been helping with everything from collecting shopping and prescriptions, delivering free school meals to children currently learning from home, dog walking and more.
Sue Chantler, Chair of Hands Together Ludlow, reflected on the current situation:
“Hands Together Ludlow is ideally placed to help those in need, but our resources are stretched by the new work we have taken on. Donations such as that from Connexus are vital for us to provide support where it is so desperately needed.”
With the current UK lockdown now extended until early May, and further intermittent lockdown measures predicted by many to be in place until the end of the year, pressure on agencies supporting society's most vulnerable is increasing by the day.
News stories documenting the effect of the Coronavirus crisis on isolated individuals can make for depressing reading. However, as we've explored, a silver lining can be found in the inspiring local response to the many difficulties raised. They can't do it alone, and need more Government support, but we hope you've been inspired as we have by a sense of community spirit that is set to continue far beyond lockdown.
This article is part of a weekly "inside the crisis" series. Here, we explore and share our insights on the effects of Covid-19.