National Food Service – Bristol newsletter.
Before we start, we had a few of you ask if it’s okay to share this newsletter around – of course it is! Forward it far and wide, the more people know about what we’re doing, the more people join us, to provide food or to receive it.
We hope you’re keeping safe and staying well, amid the government’s confusing messages this week. We’re doing our best to Stay Alert, whatever that means.
Last week was our busiest yet. In fact, these last two months have been a bit of a blur as we’ve worked nonstop to support those who are struggling.
When the COVID-19 lockdown began, we jumped into action. We could see that an immediate consequence would be an increase in food insecurity, and we wanted to start helping people as soon as we could. While we quickly became one of the city’s largest meal providers, we missed out on making some early funding applications. Although we are now applying for funding to ensure we can carry on our vital work, we don’t have a large budget and are struggling to buy some basic things we need.
What we’ve been up to
One of the most significant challenges we’ve faced is managing the kitchens remotely. As anyone who has worked in hospitality knows, keeping track of food, orders and equipment is never an easy task. It’s a task that’s made a lot harder when it has to be done over the phone. Similarly, putting together delivered orders is a complicated process, with an average of 59 orders being made each day.
We only began making meal deliveries in March and feel really proud that in such a short timeframe, we’ve created a service which is providing freshly cooked meals for over a thousand people since we started. We’ve had lots of really positive feedback too.
We couldn’t have done this without you, our fantastic volunteers. We’ve been blown away by how many of you are sharing your time and skills to help us run this massive operation. Plus, there’s been a huge amount of support across local organisations, sharing resources and referring individuals; being part of a strong network is crucial for building our community’s resilience, and we know that our work has benefitted so much from the help of others.
Through these efforts, the nation’s press is starting to notice the impact our movement is making. This Friday The Independent covered the Sheffield branch’s work.
Thank you again for being part of NFS Bristol. Please do keep signing up for shifts, you are really making a difference.
Last week we had an increase in the number of meals delivered and the number of individuals helped compared with the week before, we expect that’s going to continue rising. We delivered 2,989 meals to 427 people. This was a 50% jump-up in demand and need.
Our total number of meals delivered currently stands 10,591 which has fed 1,501 people.
The scale of these numbers still astonishes us. Food poverty is a pervasive but hidden rot in our society, a result of systemic failings and the disastrous austerity project. The people we’re delivering to may be your friends, family, colleagues or even you. We believe that access to food is a fundamental human right and shouldn’t be difficult or shameful. We want to see these numbers drop, but only when we all have full bellies and stocked cupboards.
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, Carys.
I’m one of the Bristol branch NFS founders along with Pete and Louise. Louise has been my friend for around seven years, and when she moved down to Bristol, I knew I wanted to set up an NFS branch with her following on from her fantastic work in Sheffield.
I’ve never worked professionally in a kitchen. The angry chef stereotype and stressful, long hours always put me off. I am passionate about food and cooking, though, so the idea of cooking in a pleasant environment to the benefit of the community naturally appealed to me. I’m a politically active person and try to always get involved with important projects and causes such as Labour for a Green New Deal and Bristol Transformed. I believe the NFS is key to rebuilding our communities, dealing with the environmental crisis and the start of better politics. Revolutions don’t happen on empty stomachs!
For our COVID-19 response, I’ve been managing the kitchen in Lockleaze Sports Centre (LSC). This has involved A LOT of work over the past two and a half weeks, from finding an army of chefs – We now have 25 chefs cooking in LSC, to trying to put in systems to make everyone’s lives easier and keep us, and the people who eat our food, safe. I’d like to thank all my chefs for bearing with me as I continuously put new systems in place; everything has been moving so quickly it’s hard to keep up!
I am overwhelmed by the amount of support and work this project is getting from all of you. You’re all grade-A legends and I can’t wait for the post-lockdown party and hope to see a lot of you continue working with NFS Bristol after COVID-19 and into our Brave New World – we’re definitely going to need the skills we’ve learned together over the past six weeks.
Delivering meals to those in need is crucial right now, but even more important is keeping ourselves safe. We can’t help others if we don’t look after ourselves!
When dropping off deliveries, make sure you don’t hand the meals directly to the recipient. If you can, put them on the doorstep and then move back at least 2 metres, if possible, while you wait for the door to be answered.
It’s not just our physical health that we need to look after, our mental and emotional health is just as important. We know many of our volunteers have experienced distressing phone calls and interactions while on shift. If you need a break or someone to talk to, please let your coordinator know, they’re expecting it.
We are always looking into other ways in which we can help you, and if you have any ideas, please share them with your coordinator.
Our work goes on
With the lockdown apparently easing in the UK well ahead of the WHO’s recommended schedule, we’re bracing ourselves for a fresh wave of infections. The illness and death that COVID-19 brings with it disproportionately affect the poor and BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities. We expect to see an uptick in the most socially disenfranchised and financially deprived parts of the city and surrounds.
If you’re financially stable enough to help support the project, head over to Support us Page. Some of the items that we really need are cold storage, refrigerated boxes, labels and printer ink. By donating £10, you can help us buy a freezer, increasing the numbers of meals we can store and then deliver to those in need.
As always, keep up the great work, we’ll see each other through this.
– Carys, Louise, Pete and the coordination team