Food Poverty – a sad reality of life

Today’s blog comes from Andy Street, Chair of Feeding Bristol

Food poverty is a sad reality of 21st Century Britain. The proliferation of foodbanks and community projects focussing on food provision, alongside increasing numbers of children on free school meals (currently around 14,500 in Bristol) speak into that fact. In 2017 Feeding Bristol was established with a mission to see no one in the city go hungry. As an umbrella organisation the charity works to coordinate and support the wide network of community and voluntary groups providing food to those in need, working in partnership with the Council, business, and the charitable and faith sectors across the city.

We’re committed to driving systemic change to increase food security across all social and cultural communities of Bristol – ultimately striving for ‘Zero Hunger’. Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of immediate provision for those in need, and influencing long-term local economic and national policy changes that aim to improve food security of all Bristolians.

Last summer (that seems a long time ago!) we ran our first Healthy Holidays Project, which saw over 50,000 meals delivered in various ways to children and their families who were at risk of suffering from holiday hunger.  While Feeding Bristol raised the funds needed, it was FareShare South West that provided the vast majority of the raw ingredients, alongside the massive job of sourcing, storing and delivering the food to all sorts of locations.  It took an army of volunteers, provided by a large number of the city’s big businesses, who kindly gave us their CSR hours to, help prepare and deliver the food.  We also received food donations from a large number of catering companies and wholesalers. It was amazing to see the city come together in an incredible way – an extraordinary experience!

And here we now are, facing a crisis on a global scale, and that spirit of partnership and collaboration – the Bristol spirit – is coming to the fore yet again. Sadly thousands of people are facing food poverty as the impact of furlough, redundancy and increased reliance on Universal Credit becomes a reality. The pandemic has tested Bristol’s well-established and resilient food network, but emergency planning led by Feeding Bristol is underway to ensure the inevitable increase in demand over the coming weeks and months can be met.

The response has been amazing: In the past two weeks alone, foodbanks have seen referrals of residents struggling to make ends meet tripling; FareShare South West have doubled the volume of food coming into their warehouse, distributing food to over 100 projects across the city, and opening up a temporary depot at the Ashton Gate stadium to accommodate more food; four new emergency foodbanks have opened to add to the seven already in place; the FOOD Club network has grown from five to 16, all supporting 50 families each; pop-up food distributors run by closed pubs and restaurants, and volunteers from businesses and community organisations, are all adding to Bristol’s food response.

Of course we’re only five weeks or so into this crisis, and it is inevitable that demand will continue to increase, but Bristol does have a resilient response in place, and together we’re committed to making sure that no-one should go hungry in this city. It’s a big task, but if we all pull together we can do it.

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