To help feed vulnerable people in lockdown, UKHarvest is working hard to rescue and deliver excess food. Liz Woodsell from the Chichester-based not-for-profit organisation says “we all have a responsibility” to help those in need. For the charities helping vulnerable people like The Society of St James, these donations are “invaluable”.
According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), £19 billion worth of food is wasted every year in the UK. UKHarvest was founded in 2016 to combat this nation-wide issue, collecting quality excess food from farms, supermarkets and other commercial businesses and delivering it directly to charities that are supporting vulnerable people.
Since lockdown began, Liz Woodsell, the Chief Operating Officer from the organisation, says that they’re busier than ever. She thinks that fundamentally, some catching-up needs to be done.
Liz Woodsell, Chief Operating Officer UKHarvest, says UKHarvest’s work shouldn’t be needed.
“We’ve been rescuing over 30 tonnes of food a week”
Liz Woodsell, UKHarvest
Before COVID-19, UKHarvest was collecting around 10 tonnes of surplus food each week. Liz says that now, they have “been rescuing over 30 tonnes of food a week”, and are working overtime to make sure that the high demand is met.
Coining themselves “the superheroes for surplus food”, there are four pillars to the work UKHarvest is doing: rescue, engage, educate and innovate. As well as delivering food, they are working to educate people on sustainability and essential tips for a healthy and nutritious diet. They hope that in helping people in the local community, they will also be able to help the environment.
Normally, UKHarvest also delivers to families and young children experiencing holiday hunger. But, as holiday hunger clubs have stopped with social distancing regulations, many of the food-banks that UKHarvest supplies are now doing door-step deliveries to vulnerable families. UKHarvest themselves have also adopted this approach.
Liz Woodsell, UKHarvest, says COVID-19 has changed their deliveries.
UKHarvest’s distribution area before COVID-19 was from Southampton over to Brighton, Liz says. They are currently also taking food to Hastings, Croydon, and potentially Bournemouth.
One housing association and charity from Southampton that benefits from food donations like UKHarvest’s is The Society of St James. They run various projects to support homeless adults, and adults struggling with substance abuse.
In addition to therapy and day-rehabs, The Society of St James offers specialised supported accommodation. Trevor Pickup, the charity’s CEO, says that they’ve also housed an extra 110 homeless people in the Ibis hotel in Portsmouth, with the help of the local authority. In Southampton, they’ve placed a further 30 people in Bed and Breakfasts.
Trevor says that the food donations they receive are “invaluable”.
Trevor Pickup, CEO of The Society of St James, says food donations are invaluable.
“We’ve been working with our service users to try and encourage social distancing”
Trevor Pickup, The Society of St James CEO
Within the charity’s accommodation, Trevor says “we’ve been working with our service users to try and encourage social distancing. We’re very fortunate so far that no one seems to have developed any of the definite symptoms [of Coronavirus]”.
He says that the number of food donations they’ve received has actually increased since lockdown began, meaning that his team can focus their efforts on other provisions for the people they are helping.
Trevor Pickup, CEO of The Society of St James, says that the provision of PPE has been the main worry for the homeless and vulnerable people they support.
While vulnerable people seem to be receiving support from both local government and organisations like UKHarvest, Liz Woodsell thinks the help shouldn’t be needed in the first place. With the Coronavirus pandemic causing people across the country to lose their income, it is likely that the demand for both these services will continue to increase.