Food, Glorious Food Drive
Written by Ashley Rice, Challenge:ELBA Programme Manager
Who would’ve thought that in 2020 you wouldn’t be able to buy pasta, rice, chopped tomatoes or toilet paper? For most people, this caused a minor inconvenience, however, for people who rely on food banks, this was devastating.
In the initial wake of the coronavirus outbreak, panic buying meant that important staples for food parcels were hard to come by. Also, donations from customers in supermarkets dropped by 25%. Some food banks had to reduce the amount of people they were able to support or even had to close.
ELBA has a long history of tackling food poverty in east London. Through its Team Challenge programme, ELBA places hundreds of volunteers each year with food banks. Volunteers complete a “supermarket sweep” for essential items, keeping the food banks well stocked and able to serve people in crisis. As food bank usage has increased over the years, other community organisations have started offering food to their service users such as adventure playgrounds providing children who would normally receive free school meals with healthy food or elders groups making sure their members receive a hot nutritious meal.
Knowing the importance of the issue, ELBA was quick to make food a priority when supporting the east London community during the coronavirus outbreak. ELBA launched its Virtual Food Drive in March, asking volunteers from its corporate partners to purchase food online which could be distributed to frontline community organisations. Facing issues with placing orders with supermarkets, initial orders were made for fresh fruit and vegetables which could be included in care packages or turned into pre-prepared meals. Since then, ELBA has forged partnerships with two wholesalers which means it is able to provide non-perishable food for food banks.
The response from ELBA’s members has been phenomenal with almost £7000 being raised so far. Natwest Markets have been the largest contributors so far fundraising over £4000 for the food drive. RSA, Bupa, Accenture and Liberty Speciality Markets have also been big supporters of the Virtual Food Drive. Lloyds of London also mobilised its restaurant and has been providing weekly pre-prepared meals to ELBA’s community partners.
The coronavirus outbreak has put incredible strain on vulnerable people. Children that would receive free school meals are suddenly without this provision and parents are struggling. Older people are scared and isolated and unable to get to the shops. ELBA’s community partners are working to support these people and there has been an outpouring of kindness and community spirit. These organisations have adapted quickly and expanded their services to provide food and other support for people in need.
Through the Virtual Food Drive, ELBA has been able to support 14 different organisations with food orders. One of these organisations is Children With Voices who focus on providing activities and healthy meals for children. During the coronavirus crisis, they have expanded their food service from once a week to three services a week and for anyone in need. They’re also preparing meals for NHS workers to help take the pressure off them. The Virtual Food Drive has also been able to provide food for food banks, such as Hackney Food Bank where 57kg of food donated will provide 135 meals for local people in crisis.
The Virtual Food Drive will continue running and is still looking for donations so that ELBA can support even more community organisations. You can donate online via JustGiving:
Many thanks to all the supporters so far. It’s not right that people are going hungry during this health crisis. Your donations mean that ELBA can get food to the most vulnerable people.