A network of food groups in communities in London, Manchester and beyond have been providing fresh produce to those in need.
Inews reports that more than 50 allotment groups across Britain donated tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables to struggling food banks over lockdown and will continue to do so as vulnerable families face further hardship.
A network set up by the food and farming organisation Sustain has connected allotment keepers in London, Reading, and Manchester, to food banks and other charities working to redistribute produce to those in need.
What began as a temporary initiative in the depths of lockdown has now grown to become a longer-term strategy, and the idea is not only to feed hungry families, but to forge better links between people with ample food, and those who are at risk of going without it.
Wendy Alcock, from Incredible Edible Barnet in North London, told i that so far she and her growers have managed to supply over 400kg of food to three charities in the area: Chipping Barnet Foodbank, Homeless Action, and the Rainbow Centre.
She said: “It’s been amazing. At the start of lockdown we had our gardens and we knew about the problems some people were facing. We wanted to take on the challenge and support people in our neighbourhoods.
“We planted extra food and responded as quickly as we could. It’s about coming together and being resilient, and establishing relationships with others. Together we have access to land and open space. There are mental health benefits too.
“We have lots of courgettes and potatoes, chard, carrots, cabbages, apples, and plenty more – we have a lot. It makes total sense to help foodbanks.
“They (food charities) have sometimes had very limited fresh food to give to their clients over the summer and have told us our food has been invaluable.
“So far we’ve distributed more than 400kg and we’ll carry on. We don’t just want to grow food and give food. We want to carry on connecting with the families and people receiving it. Some have visited the allotments and we’ve worked on recipe ideas.”
Deprivation and food inequality has been an ever-present problem in Britain. During the coronavirus pandemic, poverty – most notably that afflicting children – has only worsened. Many have been critical of the Government’s inaction: the apparent passive nature of Boris Johnson has led the likes of the Manchester United and England star Marcus Rashford to campaign for an improved food system.
Meanwhile, The Trussell Trust, the UK’s foremost foodbank network, reported a soaring 89 per cent increase in need for emergency food parcels during April 2020 compared to the same month last year, including a 107 per cent rise in parcels given to children.
It is schemes such as this one set up by Sustain that is helping to plug the gaps.
Volunteers at Chipping Barnet Foodbank wrote to Ms Alcock to explain how regular donations of locally sourced fresh food has allowed the team to adapt, and to deliver more “nutritionally balanced” packages.
“The food bank relies on donations such as yours to continue its work tackling food poverty and hunger in our local communities,” read the letter seen by i.
“Prior to the crisis, our food bank would have been reluctant to take fresh produce, our system of working it could not be guaranteed the vegetables would always and reliably reach clients without deteriorating.
“As we now pack our standard allocation of non-perishable food bags prior to sessions with clients and have a wider variety of fresh produce available on a consistent basis, we are better able to ensure these items reach those in need quickly.”
The letter continued: “Especially during the current crisis, support from the community is so vital. Thank you for helping us continue our work – your ongoing donations have been a great help.”
Elsewhere, foodbanks and charities in other parts of the capital, in Reading, Berkshire, and in Manchester, have reported similar stories. Sustain said clients have welcomed fresh ingredients after finding no end of tinned and non-perishable food in their emergency boxes.
Fiona McAllister, from Sustain’s Capital Growth, a festival that celebrates urban food production in London, added: “New gardens are springing up, people growing at home like never before and community gardens growing to donate produce to people who need it the most, as we’ve seen through our Community Harvest initiative.”
(Story source: Inews)