For the past ten years FoodCycle has been running community meals across the country to help fight food poverty and tackle loneliness. In 2019 68% of the people that dined with us said they could not afford to buy food and 75% said they felt lonely.
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, the meals had to stop, and we quickly adapted to delivering food parcels, as well as offering befriending phone calls, as a temporary measure.
We’ve always relied on surplus food to cook the meals and we are doing the same for the food parcels. Where there has been an increase in the need for support, finding surplus has been difficult in some areas of the country, which has meant that sometimes we have had to purchase food.
What sets FoodCycle apart is that you don’t have to fit a certain criteria to receive support from us. At our community meals we welcomed those that were homeless, elderly, struggling with mental health issues, low-income families or those that simply cannot afford to buy food or don’t have access to basic equipment, like an oven or microwave. We continue to support these people but with the current pandemic, we are also delivering to a whole host of new people including front line workers, NHS staff and those that don’t fit the criteria to get support from elsewhere.
“I just wanted to say thank you. Universal credit have sanctioned us for the past 2 months for no reason, have offered no help or advances and so the only way we (me and my partner) have been able to eat this whole month is from what you’ve supplied us. Before this mess we were homeless for over 6 months, and we have never experienced kindness like you have given us. You guys are so helpful, I couldn’t be more grateful for all you have done for us.” FoodCycle beneficiary, Bristol
“I’m an NHS worker and with all the hours I am working, I can’t always get to the shops and even when I do, I’m struggling to afford to buy food.” FoodCycle beneficiary, London.
FoodCycle are currently delivering food parcels to over 2,000 households every week with 80% of these people saying they cannot afford to buy food. Staying connected with our beneficiaries and helping them to feel less lonely or isolated is really important too, which is why we have also introduced a weekly check in and chat phone call.
But what happens when COVID-19 becomes less virulent and the government and mutual aid groups stop sending out care packages. It’s great to see how the community is coming together but when people return to work and start to get back to normality, what will happen then?
It is likely that the economy will take some time to recover and we anticipate greater levels of long-term unemployment, so there will be many more people struggling to buy food.
Returning to our community meals is really important, many of those that we are supporting don’t have sufficient cooking facilities, so providing a healthy, nutritious three course meal is a lifeline.
It seems like it will be a while before that can happen but we are already working on a plan to re-open quickly, expand in to new areas and continue to break down the stigma around food poverty.
Until then we are doing everything we can to ensure that our delivery service is sustainable and that we are in a position to welcome thousands more people to come and eat with us for long after this pandemic is over.
By Mary McGrath, CEO, FoodCycle
Find out more about FoodCycle and support their work at https://www.foodcycle.org.uk/get-involved/donate/