We’ve updated our report on our COVID-19 response to the end of December 2020. You can download the full report below, but you can read on for some of the updated highlights.
Business as usual?
Although many of the groups we regularly support suspended their services – at least initially – our team still processed 214 tonnes of donated and intercepted food (completely separate to the food purchased for the council). As groups began to resume services, this food allowed us to support our regular client groups as and when they needed food, including community groups, faith groups, asylum and refugee projects, homeless provision, schools and other organisations.
Our Cooking @ The Storehouse team had to cancel our Easter classes, but they were kept busy preparing meals (see earlier), and also found time to create a set of online educational ‘cook along’ videos for some of the groups and schools they regularly work with. They also joined the Healthy Holidays programme again and during the summer, October and Christmas holidays ran socially-distanced open air kids’ cooking classes at our new Shaw House venue (see over). In total over 100 people participated in 44 workshops to cook around 400 dishes of all kinds, each family taking home their meal and a goody bag at the end.
In November we worked with the My Living Well website to distribute free self-care week recipe parcels, containing the recipe and ingredients for a delicious ‘fakeaway’ curry – all the taste of a takeaway but cheaper, healthier and made at home.
We also distributed 70 Christmas biscuit and butternut squash muffin recipe bags through Bradford Inclusive Disability Service, for people to make at home.
Whilst we had to suspend our welfare support work at the start of lockdown, we worked with some of our referral agencies to support half a dozen individuals with emergency household items and furniture, and reconfigured our support services to reopen safely at the beginning of August. Since then they have been operating at increased capacity, with our new Welfare Support Worker hitting the ground running.
Back in 2019, Feeding Bradford were approached by Shaw Moisture Meters who had an empty building and wanted to give back to Bradford. We agreed to take on the premises and began clearing and refurbishing it.
Despite the crisis disrupting this work, we successfully transformed the former brewery building into a new social supermarket, cookery school and homeless outreach centre. Funding from Feeding Britain allowed us to fit out the supermarket, and a Homeless Link grant allowed us to install a shower and washing machine for homeless guests to use.
The new venue has played host to our cooking workshops (with thanks to Bradford Markets and Participate Projects for improving our outdoor area so that we could initially run our classes outdoors). Then in November our social supermarket was ready to open.
Membership of the social supermarket costs £6 per week and allows members to take home a good basketful of produce every week, plus other benefits including a Credit Union savings account and access to advice drop-in sessions, discounts and cookery classes. Referral is by voucher, issued by one of Inn Churches’ referral agencies (initially In Communities, Neesie and Social Services). Individuals can also self-refer.
We have been piloting this affordable food model with some of the food projects we already work with, launching pop-up pantries and saving schemes in partnership with Bradford District Credit Union.
Finding food in Bradford
To help provide a coordinated approach to getting food to those who need it, we launched the ‘Find food in Bradford’ website (bradfordfoodbanks.org.uk). This site allows those who need food to find their closest foodbank, low-cost market, homeless meal or lockdown food, or to find their nearest location to donate food or volunteer.
The site has been visited over 3,500 times since its launch in mid-November and is proving a fantastic resource to direct people to their best source of food at the cost they need it (including free food if required).
The role of charities, and the voluntary sector and its volunteers, has never been more vital than in the past year. It has often fallen to the faith sector to lead the way in volunteering and welfare provision and support, and the past 9 months have shown that again in Bradford.
2020 was unprecedented in the number of volunteers turning out to support their communities. It was heartening to see the camaraderie on display as people showed up week in and week out to respond to the challenges faced right across the city.
As a team, I have never been more proud of our Inn Churches family as they steered a new course of action through the global pandemic.