Since the start of COVID-19 we have seen a huge increase in the amount of people needing to access emergency food parcels. Food banks across the city stepped up their activities, community halls were turned into temporary food hubs and volunteer drivers delivered food to residents at home.
What we have seen is that most of the problems that necessitate a person to seek help with their food supplies, are not something that can be solved overnight. ‘Low income’ is the main reason people go to a food bank. Food banks are only supposed to be there to support people for a few weeks – whilst they get their benefits sorted or get some financial advice.
50% of food banks surveyed estimated their beneficiaries need help for more than 12 weeks and this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many people who are just about making ends meet. This global crisis has shown us that it doesn’t take much to push people into poverty, where food prices, rent and bills compete to form impossible sums.
However, we know that food banks aren’t the answer to ongoing poverty and we also need to find other ways to help people access low cost food. In most cases, you don’t get to choose what goes in your food parcel. Finding food that suits your dietary needs e.g. food suitable for gluten free diets, diabetes etc let alone personal preferences are hard. Food banks are reliant on donations from kind-hearted members of the public, but some people feel a stigma in accepting charity. Food banks, whilst providing an absolute essential service to our community, are supposed to be a temporary, emergency measure.
Brighton & Hove Food Partnership is pleased to be working with a number of initiatives across the city to bring more affordable food to residents. We have been successful in securing funding from the National Lottery Coronavirus Community Support Fund to continue our work supporting the Emergency Food Network and to work with resident-led initiatives including; the Community Shop in Hanover, Moulsecoomb Community Market, Very Local Food Hubs, Mutual Aid and East Brighton Food Coop.
Moulsecoomb Community Market launched last Weds 30th September, based at St Georges Hall. It is a membership scheme where you pay a weekly £3.50 membership fee, you get a list and a basket, the items are all colour-coded and you can choose a certain number of each, plus some freebies as well. For your £3.50 you can get goods up to about £16. There’s a packing station at the end and you bring your own bags. The scheme is open to anyone from Moulsecoomb and the surrounding areas, there is no referral system, so anyone who wants to, can sign up.
They have got all their COVID safety measures in place: NHS Track & Trace when you sign up; 2m queue markings up to the door; arrows marking a one-way system throughout the hall; hand-sanitising stations and face masks for anyone who has forgotten theirs.
Very Local Food Hubs are also on-site to offer residents the chance to purchase fruit and veg boxes, eggs, bread and cheese, sourced from local providers.
The concept is something I first heard of about 3 years ago and I just thought what a brilliant idea. It takes away the stigma around food poverty and it’s available to anyone in the community – that part is important. It makes good quality, nutritious food accessible in areas away from the city centre, which makes such a difference if you have no car or can’t afford public transport as well as your food shop. Everyone involved here is a local resident and that’s really important too – to be community-led, not top-down.
Cllr. Kate Knight
This scheme is made possible because a lot of the food is provided by Fareshare Sussex; who redistribute surplus food. Then the food is topped up with items that can’t be sourced from Fareshare.
I didn’t know what to expect but it’s definitely better than what we were getting before [from the foodbank]. You can get exactly what you want. Before, because we had no choice, some of it ended up going to waste. I didn’t even take everything I was entitled to today, I just took what I needed – and none of it will be wasted. I’ve got no complaints, I will be coming back.
It’s also great to see the Hall being brought back to life. We’re restricted in what we can do at the moment because of COVID, but in the future we plan to have cake and coffee mornings, book swaps, cookery lessons, lunch clubs… We’ve got loads of ideas but for now we are really happy to be here, this is just the first day!
Cllr Kate Knight
Mouslecoomb Community Market runs from 10am – 12pm every Weds at St. George’s Hall, 140 Newick Rd, BN1 9JG. You need to pay just £1 to join as a member, you can turn up on the day and register or contact Anke Thurm on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07449 464695to sign up.
Watch this space for more information about the other schemes.
Contact Helen Starr-Keddle on email@example.com or 07850 002596.
This project is possible thanks to Government funding via the National Lottery Coronavirus Community Fund