National Food Service – Bristol newsletter.
The National Food Service was formed as a community dining project, aiming to tackle food insecurity, loneliness and food waste at a local level. In Bristol, before the COVID-19 lockdown, this meant organising community dining, bringing people together over a shared meal, and supporting people to take the lead in these projects, making them into what they want them to be. Since the lockdown was announced, our work has transformed. In a matter of weeks, we became one of the city’s largest provider of meals: in April we helped 658 people, providing 4,827 meals, across the city and into South Gloucestershire. We are entirely volunteer-run, a testament to the incredible individuals who have signed up to join us.
We are currently operating out of three different sites: Baggator, Buzz Cafe and Lockleaze Sports Centre. These sites receive food donated from various local retailers, which is cooked into delicious meals and then frozen by our team of volunteer chefs. Vulnerable members of our community are referred to us or self refer; our phoneline volunteers process orders and are sometimes the only person the vulnerable person has spoken to for days.
Orders are prepared the next day, collected by our volunteer drivers, and delivered throughout Bristol and South Gloucestershire. Behind the scenes are a team of coordinators, who have been working tirelessly to put this operation in place and respond to the challenges we face, including limited time, funds, and the uncertainty created by COVID-19.
You may recognise yourself in one (or more!) of these descriptions, and we want to thank all of the fantastic individuals who have volunteered with us so far. You have been instrumental in getting the project up and running. We truly could not have done this without your support.
We need to carry on providing meals to the many people who need our help across Bristol, and so we are grateful for your continued support. Please do keep signing up to volunteer shifts, and share our work with your friends, family and anyone else who might be able to help, or might need support themselves.
Each week we have seen an increase in the number of meals we have been providing and individuals we are supporting. Last week, we were also able to provide our service at the weekend, rather than just Monday – Friday. This could be one of the reasons why we delivered nearly 500 more meals last week than the week before! (Although we had delivered the same number of orders as last week by Wednesday this week!)
This week, we expect to provide over 2,600 meals to 385 individuals.
Our total number of meals delivered currently stands at 7,413, with 1,047 individuals supported.
Currently, we have 36 phoneline volunteers and 118 volunteer drivers.
The delivery of this enormous volume of meals to some of the most vulnerable people in Bristol and the surrounding area is only possible thanks to our volunteer base, and if you’ve received this newsletter, that means you too. So from all of us to all of us: Thank you
Meet the Team
Did you know that the National Food Service is run entirely by volunteers? We’ll introduce you to one team member in each newsletter, starting with one of Bristol branch founders, Louise.
I’ve been working in community food provision for about five years, mainly at the Foodhall Project in Sheffield, which is where the National Food Service Network began. Food is me. Providing food for people is my thing.
I’m the project manager of our COVID emergency food delivery project. I keep an eye on the Baggator kitchen in Easton. I liaise with the building managers, cleaners, affiliated organisations, and so on. I help to keep supplies of food and donated meals coming in and support the phoneline coordinating team. Not that they need much support as they are already far better at managing the phonelines than I was – hooray for decentralisation!
Pete and I keep all the various plates spinning between us, with Carys managing the cooking teams and the new Lockleaze kitchen, and the Phoneline and Driver Coordination teams running behind the scenes stuff. This project is hugely collaborative. As we expand, we’re sharing responsibility across the teams, so that less and less relies on me. Hopefully, should I become ill, everything will still carry on, and no one will be let down.
I sometimes feel powerless in the face of the devastation ordinary people have to deal with thanks to the dismantling of the welfare state and the increased oppression of workers and renters. I can’t fix it all, no one can alone. But I can cook, and I can share, and when we sit around and share food with each other revolutionary ideas can happen.
Where to from here?
Although we’re a few months into the pandemic, there’s still a long way to go until we’re safe. The sparse help the government is providing doesn’t go far enough to help everyone who needs it, yet there’s already talk of that help being scaled back. In these tough times we need to look to our neighbours in our wider community for help and to help. Your participation in our mutual aid project is literally the difference between life and death for some people.
If you’re financially stable enough to help financially support the project, your solidarity can be expressed on our Support Us page. Maybe you can tip us over the edge.
In the meantime, keep up the great work, we’ll see each other through this
– Louise, Pete, Carys and the coordination team