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Feeding Bristol and Covid-19: ‘feeding a city together’

Feeding Bristol and Covid-19: ‘feeding a city together’

What might come as a sombre surprise to some people of Bristol is also a harsh reality for a lot of our neighbours: the guarantee of at least one healthy and hearty meal per day is not something we all have the luxury of experiencing at the best of times. The 14-week lockdown only increased the enormous pressures that over 43,000¹ people regularly experience with regard to the above; not only were they trying to keep their families fed, but they were also trying to pay the growing bills caused by spending more time at home.
Before the COVID-19 lockdown, Bristol had 14,250 children (22.5%) eligible for Free School Meals (FSM). With economic decline and an increased number of people losing their jobs, the number of FSM registrations increased 250% during April and May 2020. These are staggering numbers. But what’s important to remember is that this doesn’t include all the people suffering from food insecurity. What these numbers don’t tell you is that no child under the age of 5 is included, nor does it show the low eligibility requirements – lots of people miss out.

It would have been easy on March 23rd - the start of lockdown - to just give up. As a city, we have never had to deal with such an extraordinary situation; the task of making sure people didn’t go hungry looked too hard. What happened in the days that followed, and continues at the point of writing this blog, showed tremendous solidarity across Bristol. Unfortunately while there were definitely people who went hungry during this time, the collaborative efforts of over 125 different organisations meant that many people were able to eat when circumstances meant they couldn’t provide for themselves.

Feeding Bristol, a local charity focused on reducing food insecurity, led the strategic response of the city to increase the effectiveness of available resources in supporting those most in need in our community. Over 125 different community groups or organisations provided either meals or food parcels during the lockdown period. The reason this is so impressive is that many of these organisations had never dealt with food before! Those who had the skills were prepared to roll up their sleeves and help other groups with setting up food and COVID-safe practices.

Additionally, others including Feeding Bristol, Bristol City Council, FareShare South West, Bristol Food Network, and the foodbank network, worked together to provide the citywide oversight to help spread the amazing offers of support that came from local businesses (despite Feeding Bristol and Covid-19: 'feeding a city together’ by Maurice Di Rosso Director of Feeding Bristol 14 potentially struggling themselves). We were inundated with offers of volunteer labour, food donations, warehouse space, use of commercial kitchens, and much more!

The cohesiveness between the private, public and third sectors in Bristol allowed us – together as one city – to help feed as many people as was possible during lockdown. Despite the catastrophic, long-term impact lockdown will have on our city, at least we know that we can work together. These partnerships and this way of working will continue as we move forward. Now back to the challenge of tackling the root causes so that, hopefully, more people can have that guarantee of feeding themselves a healthy and hearty meal.

 

by Maurice Di Rosso Director of Feeding Bristol

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