Coronavirus emergency food bill rises to £200k for Brighton and Hove

The cost of providing emergency food during the covid-19 coronavirus crisis has risen to £200,000, with extra cash coming from Brighton and Hove City Council.

The money – some raised through a crowdfunding appeal – has helped pay for thousands of meals and food parcels for people in “food poverty”, according to a report to councillors.

Council chief executive Geoff Raw has approved funding worth £124,500 for the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership, using “urgency” powers.

It comes after a crowdfunding appeal – under the banner Hungry at Home – was set up in March “with the aim of raising £15,000 to buy emergency food in bulk from catering wholesalers”.

A council report said: “The target was quickly reached and doubled to £30,000.

“When that target was reached, the council provided match-funding of £30,000 to support the effort to purchase emergency food.”

The council also gave the Food Partnership a £15,000 grant to manage and co-ordinate emergency food distribution and helped secure premises – at Hove Park School – to use as a food processing hub.

The extra £124,500, granted by Mr Raw for June, July and August, is expected to help feed hundreds of struggling families and individuals.

The report – to the council’s Policy and Resources (Recovery) Sub-committee – said that applications to the Local Discretionary Social Fund had risen from 70 in February to 238 in April.

It said: “Emergency food need does not appear to be abating.”

Fourteen food bans were operating before the coronavirus crisis. Seventeen food hubs have since been set up in response to the crisis. The council and Food Partnership also work with 10 community meals projects.

And, the report said, before the crisis “emergency food providers were giving out 420 parcels a week”.

It said: “In the week of (Monday) 30 March, this was 1,400 parcels and 1,800 meals.”

It added that, in the week commencing (Monday) 27 April, “40 local food projects gave out emergency food parcels to 3,001 households, supporting over 4,831 people, including at least 996 children and served 3,966 meals.”

Geoff Raw with council leader Nancy Platts

The report also said that food charity FareShare distributed 71 tonnes of surplus food in March, 114 tonnes in April and more than 130 tonnes last month.

The council’s head of communities, equality and the third sector, Emma McDermott, said: “The money allows us to ensure we are feeding people while we are also beginning to support them to maximise their income and move off our emergency food lists.”

She also said: “Funding emergency food as a response to food insecurity is not sustainable in the long run.”

The council has produced a guide for all food banks and similar projects in Brighton and Hove on how to help people find more support.

Her report to the sub-committee said: “The main reasons that people use food banks are low income, debt, benefit delays and benefit changes. These reasons have not changed.”

But, she told councillors, demand for emergency food support had risen since the coronavirus measures were introduced, particularly when people lost their main source of income.

Her report said that food poverty was driving the need for food banks and hubs as “people’s shopping options in lockdown became more expensive”.

It said that local shops were more expensive, there were delivery charges and poorer people were unable to bulk buy food cheaply.

Green councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty thanked the communities team and volunteers for their work which he said was as a “real lifeline” for so many people.

Councillor Mac Cafferty said: “What we’ve seen through the lockdown period has been a fantastic community response.

“We’ve seen an awful lot of people who’ve had a little bit of extra time be able to volunteer in their community.

“It would be great for the council to have a meaningful discussion with employers in the city to encourage volunteering leave.”

Ms McDermott said that some volunteers were heading back to work and others were “burnt out”.

The Green group convenor said that there was still a need to help people who were shielding, particularly ahead of a potential second wave of the coronavirus.

If people were able to have a few hours off work each week to help others in need, it might make a crucial difference, Councillor Mac Cafferty added.

American Express was among local employers in the City Volunteering Partnership that encouraged staff to volunteer, the sub-committee was told when it held a “virtual” meeting, chaired by Labour council leader Nancy Platts, yesterday (Wednesday 24 June).

Green councillor David Gibson said that the Hanover community had raised £10,000 towards setting up a food co-operative to help people once the emergency funding ran out in September.

  1. TOWYN Reply

    Yeah i’ve got a problem with this. I’ve been part of helping to feed those in need and what I’ve experienced is that they aren’t in need to the point where food is a necessity and not a luxury. Seriously, they have given away the food or thrown it away. Not because there is something wrong with it but because they aren’t actually hungry or in need enough to eat it. I have been told that putting vegetables in a stir-fry is not to their liking. I’ve been told that putting anything other than meat and sauce in a curry is not something they will eat. Perhaps I have just been unlucky which I accept and that this isn’t representative of those truly in need but I gotta say honestly and truthfully that this has been my experience. I also donated sums of money to this cause mentioned in the article and have also been financially donating to the food banks regularly since the pandemic began. It’s not cool and has totally shattered my pre-conceived ideas of poverty here as I understood it. I grew up in poverty which is why I felt very close to this, but honestly, when I was growing up you either ate what was on your plate or you went hungry. There wasn’t a choice. Pretty saddened to be honest.

  2. Valerie Reply

    I had a box of food turn up that was not wanted so I saw what goes in them. A lot I could or would never eat – like meat. I was able to get priority bookings for online shopping & asked they not bring me boxes.

    At the start of shielding it was not clear what to do & I had registered as needing support by calling an automated number when online shopping suddenly became impossible as new people piled into buying online & it was TERRIFYING in my housebound situation! I was in floods of tears when it first happened. The sight of that box of mostly unsuitable food was unnerving. But I took some oranges. No more.

    Priority slots eventually became available for a list of shielded people that supermkts were given. It means checking frequently, at different times but the system works for me & online shopping is doable if on that list.

    People taking these huge boxes of food should pay towards them if they are just avoiding supermarkets for health reasons but are not in need of food bank type free boxes!

    There should be a way for unwanted box contents to be taken back by deliverers but there seems not to be an organised way to do it.

  3. TOWYN Reply

    There are many ways for unwanted charitable goods to find new and needy homes. It’s a shame you haven’t thought about it. It’s all on Brighton and Hove Mutual Aid.

  4. TOWYN Reply

    For the record: I also saw many of the beauty essentials I donated to a specific food bank by believing I was doing a good deed to those who needed them, only to see a good proportion of those items sitting on a table with other goods at another food bank which was set up as a temporary measure because of the covid-19 crisis. How did I find out? By simply looking at the photos provided by another food bank through Facebook on a local Mutual Aid post. How did I know these items came from me? Because I have travelled the world and collected all sorts of beauty items on offer for free from everywhere I have stayed. These items are not readily available to buy.

    So you tell me exactly how desperate people living here are now? I gave away all these beauty products which I had collected over a number of years that included brands such as Kiehls and Ren because the food bank said they were desperate for personal hygiene items including sanitary wares but not discounting all other things which keep a person clean to give people give their dignity.

    I know what desperate means. It means going without. That is not what I am seeing BHCC.

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