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One year ago, the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership were bagging 420 food parcels a week to distribute to those in need. Today, in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak, that number has risen to over 3000.

One year ago, the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership and associates across the city were bagging 420 food parcels a week to distribute to those in need. Today, in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak, that number has risen to over 3000.

Although the numbers recently surged, helping local people and enjoy good food has been the partnership’s focus for over 17 years. The not-for-profit organisation was started by a group of residents struggling to reconcile the fact that people in the community were going hungry, while 60% of food waste is said to be avoidable.

In that time, they have built a network to deliver a better system to help address the issue. Their work has had resounding success, winning awards and being replicated nationwide through Sustainable Food Cities – a burgeoning movement across more than 50 areas in the UK.

While sustenance is crucial to health, the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership also offer that human connection – something that lockdown has reminded us is critical to wellbeing. As well as connect the community to selected organisations, the partnership run workshops at a Community Kitchen on the Queens Road, showing people how to cook, grow food and, of course, waste less. Classes are offered to those who are isolated, vulnerable or suffering from physical and mental health conditions, as well as those with low income. And their new Green Wellbeing initiative offers outdoor activities for vulnerable groups.

In the three years before the crisis, they worked on zero waste, getting surplus food supplies to hungry people through the Surplus Food Network and initiatives like community fridges. The community fridge initiative enables companies and residents to work towards becoming zero waste – by offloading their surplus food to a monitored location where individuals can go and collect food.

They’ve had to put some of these activities on hold during lockdown. Now much of the team is working flat out to help those grappling with the financial havoc wrought by the pandemic, shifting their focus to finding, bagging and delivering emergency food parcels.

Helen Starr-Keddle is the partnership’s Development Officer. “It’s a result of a failing system,” she says. “Most of the people we help struggle to buy food simply because their outgoings are higher than their income, even after any financial support they might receive. Meanwhile, their debt continues to mount.”

The reality of an impending recession means thousands of residents face grim employment prospects and income security. Today, the partnership already needs more than £15,000 a week just to feed those in the community that are struggling. This has led them to increase their fundraising, because they know that demand will continue to grow long after the lockdown.

“Nobody chooses to rely on emergency food packages.” Says Helen. “Food is a personal thing. People often receive items they don’t like or cannot eat due to intolerance and allergies.” She would like to build a better response – one where people are offered food vouchers to give them more choice, perhaps. But all this is extremely hard to cater for in the midst of a crisis.

Helen and her team are asking for support from the government, local councils and businesses to help to continue supporting those in need across our city. They also rely on the goodwill of the community.

If you are interested in donating to the emergency response, visit their website. You’ll also find other interesting information, while those in need of help can find a list of companies that can shop and deliver food: https://bhfood.org.uk/category/get-involved/donate/

 


 

EASY WRITER ‘BAGS THE LOVE’

So, the new headlamp and lens for my motorbike arrives separately in the post today. Will they fit together? Very exciting. I decide to write an article on the two parts coming together, entitled ‘Love at First Bike’.

I know the guys at the Kula mag love all the wellbeing and sustainability angle but this is real world stuff. The phone rings, blimey, it’s the editor!

I ready myself to pitch the headlamp story.

Editor. Kelsey?

Me. Yeh, listen I have a great idea…

Editor. Yeh, yeh, yeh, get down to this school and check out what’s going on there. Don’t forget your cam…

My hand is already on my camera bag, I grab my car keys, because my motorbike headlamp is…never mind, and I head for the door.

I walk through the doors and the assembly hall is full of beans. Literally! Tins and tins of beans, tea bags and toilet roll.

Hove park school is now temporary base camp for the lockdown food parcel operation run by The Brighton and Hove Food Partnership.

The school is buzzing

once again. The front classroom is the packing room, each section staffed by volunteers, all of them giving their time for free. Furloughed cabin crew sort huge sacks of porridge oats into individual portions and an actress and film producer are on the egg packing section, (I drop in that I’m ‘between roles‘ and threw in a few accents while I was taking his picture). There is a shortage of egg boxes so they are making do with egg crates and Sellotape. Art time. In the opposite corner off the classroom a volunteer lady, who wished to remain off camera, is packing items either gifted or bought in.

Packing the bags are time consuming. In these bags, amongst other things, tins of Fray Bentos steak and kidney pies. I remark that I hadn’t seen these for years and the pie in a tin lady tells me she has also packed ‘ham in a can‘ and Pina colada cake mix. My mouth waters. The music is on and the vibe is infectious. (Excuse the pun).

I was aware of food parcels for the people in need during this time of crisis, but I had no idea of the scale of the operation needed to make it happen. From the first awkward call to ask for money, sourcing reliable delivery drivers, finding volunteers with the right attitude, and obtaining a free location to make this happen is admirable.

Incredibly this team are managing to get their free food packages to 3000 homes feeding 5000 people who have been affected during the crisis. Every week!

After a few hours here at the school I realise it’s not just food that goes into these packages, there is also a lot of lockdown love.

I take my hat off to them all. It should be my helmet but my motorbike headlamp is…never mind.