Coronavirus and emergency food in Brighton & Hove

Over the last few days we have been contacted by many people and organisations asking what we are doing to ensure that vulnerable people and those in poverty get fed during the COVID-19 crisis – and asking what they can do to help.

tin cans on shelf

This is a fast-moving situation, but we are working with others to coordinate a citywide response (this includes the city’s 17 food banks, Fareshare Sussex, The Bevy, Real Junk Food Project, Chomp, Lunch Positive, Children’s Centres and the Trust for Developing Communities). We are linking in with the befriending organisations, Carers Centre, older people’s services, Possability People, and community centres – all of whom are reaching out to people, arranging phone calls with the vulnerable and isolated and offering to help get food for people at home.

The voluntary sector cannot solve this on our own and we are connecting with local businesses and statutory services. The links between advice agencies, Brighton & Hove City Council information points, single point of contact telephone services such as Ageing Well and emergency food provision are already in place but need to be strong and effective going ahead. The next steps are to agree phone numbers / web information etc so people can find out about how to get help.

There is a lot to do but the fact that people and organisations are acting now, acting together and acting quickly is positive news.

We know:

  • There are already thousands of households that rely on emergency food and many more that access shared meals for affordable food and company
  • There will be more people needing emergency food than before as the impact of loss of work is felt.
  • Food needs to be served with dignity and opportunities for social contact (even if just through a door) are maximised. We want to develop both a meal service and a food parcel service so that people can have food that best meets their needs.
  • The way that emergency food is parcelled and redistributed will need to be adapted to meet increased demand, to ensure efficient and effective sorting of larger quantities of food and to minimise the numbers of people coming together in small spaces. We are finalising a model with partners based around hubs.
  • This challenge is across all ages and all areas of the city – we are talking to children’s centres, to the school meals service re families eligible for free school meals as well as to the organisations that support adults and older people.
  • Surplus food will not be enough to meet the demand and we will have to buy food (wholesale). We will also need money to pay for petrol, for staff, for packaging, for cleaning and safety equipment.
  • As well as people who can’t afford to buy food there are going to be many people over 70 or who have a health condition that will not be able to get out to the shops. Parallel to a free emergency food provision system we need to make sure that this group of people can have nutritious, affordable food delivered to their door safely – be that by neighbours, food delivery services and/or volunteers with community-based organisations. A dark side to the crisis is reports of vulnerable people being scammed for ‘money for shopping by a fake neighbour’ and minimising this risk is important.
  • There is already a network of amazing community and neighbourhood-based organisations trusted by the people they work with that will play a vital role in finding out who needs food and coordinating getting it to them.

What can you do as an individual?

If you are shopping in a supermarket with a donation basket for Fareshare or a foodbank please donate items when you do your shop.

Many people are keen to donate their time. Volunteer opportunities and other ideas will be listed on our how you can help page.

Cash donations

We know that the scale of demand means that surplus food will not be enough. Although the government has announced funding to support emergency food it is not clear how we get this and we need to buy things now. If you can help by donating money (this is preferable to buying and dropping off food at projects as we try to minimise face to face contact) please see our Crowdfund donation page here. We will use the funding to buy food and other essentials for projects working across the whole city.

If you are a funder that wishes to make a larger donation to this work please contact us directly.

Food businesses

We know that the situation for restaurants, cafes, small retailers is desperate and we will be sharing ways that you can support your local food business via our website and social media (home deliveries, voucher purchasing, eating out with social distancing etc).

We are also looking for donations of a range of ingredients and equipment from food businesses that may be scaling back activities, find out more here.

Community organisations

We will be putting information out via our usual networks, via the Trust for Development Communities, Council Communities team and the Community Works list but please let us know if you are planning on doing any food-related work as part of your COVID-19 response.  We will be putting information on our website about what services and support around food are available.

Please stay safe.


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