National Food Service – Bristol newsletter.
It has now been over two months since lockdown began, and although restrictions are easing off, we don’t expect life to suddenly go back to normal. The consequences of the last nine weeks will be long-lasting. Food insecurity was a pressing concern long before COVID-19, but it has been dramatically exacerbated. We have heard some fantastic feedback from our meal recipients: our hard work is making a difference. We want to continue doing this for as long as we have to, and you are a crucial part of our success!
What once was unimaginable and radical is becoming mainstream – just last week Rebecca Long-Bailey (one of Labour’s shadow cabinet) called for the official, government establishment of a National Food Service. Even farmers are calling for a more direct way for food to be distributed than through the inefficient, profit-generating bottleneck of the supermarkets.
What we’ve been up to
Our new Bristol-dedicated website is live! Go and take a look at nationalfoodservicebristol.uk, if you’d like to know more about the project and how we’ve responded to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s all there. You’ll also find easy ways to find support and help to provide it to others.
This week we’re asking you to help the project in some exciting new ways. We want you to take a picture of yourself on the phones, delivering meals or whatever you do to support NFS. Send them in to firstname.lastname@example.org and share them on social media #NFSBristol. Bonus points if you can get in a Bristol landmark.
Please make sure though, that you don’t reveal recipients’ faces names, addresses or any other personal information. We want to use these pictures to promote the NFS so if you contribute, we’re asking that you give us the rights to use them in press-packs and presentations to different organisations for promotion. You can retract permission at any time by letting us know by email.
We are starting to see a levelling off in numbers, with the number of meals around the 3,000 mark each week. Last week was a particularly busy one, but this week has been slightly quieter. We delivered 2,981 meals to 413 people. We really hope that means that more people are making ends meet or finding support where they need it. It might mean though that people are falling off the radar, so we can’t afford to get complacent now.
Our total number of meals delivered currently stands at 16,869, which have fed 2,411 people.
When we started delivering meals at the beginning of April, we really never imagined that in two months we would be close to the 17,000 meal mark.
This is a huge testament to the fantastic support we have received from the community, but also a fairly damning comment on the state of food security in the city. It feels shocking how quickly many people have found themselves in a position where they are struggling to feed themselves and their families. At NFS Bristol we do not want to create a dependency on charity, or for our recipients to feel as though they are powerless victims. We want food to empower, to bring people together, and to be a source of joy. It is up to us all to work for a society in which no one goes hungry.
If you’re receiving this as a volunteer and you’ve been on the receiving end of the meal provision yourself, we couldn’t be more thrilled that you’re taking part. Equally, if you’re a volunteer who is having difficulty yourself, please book yourself in for a delivery, this project is for you as much as it is for anyone else.
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, this time with one of our driver coordinators, Dave.
I’m a graphic designer by trade, so when we went into lockdown, I started working from home, then I was furloughed and a few weeks after that, was made redundant. Seeing care workers, NHS staff and other key workers put their lives on the line every day; I knew I had to find a way to help my vulnerable neighbours beyond my local mutual aid group.
I don’t have any medical or care training, so when I saw the NFS post on Facebook asking for volunteers, I applied immediately. I thought this was something I could put my energy into, to make an immediate material improvement to the lives of my fellow Bristolians.
Since I started just a couple of months ago, first driving then helping with coordination, I’ve seen how a couple of hundred meals a week has exploded to thousands. The message of solidarity over charity gave me a huge amount of hope, by empowering one other we give ourselves agency. We can be the change we want to see and feel supported if we fall on hard times ourselves without fear of shame or embarrassment.
I’m excited that I’m involved so close to the start of the National Food Service because I know that one day soon it will be as universal and treasured as the National Health Service. As I’ve taken on more roles across the organisation (I help to put this newsletter together too!), I’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of love and support our recipients, volunteers and communities have for our food solidarity project. I’m extremely proud of what we’re doing and you should be too.
Over the last couple of months, face masks in public have become a common sight, but how much do they actually help to prevent the spread of COVID-19? Our medical and care staff rely on medical-grade masks to shield themselves against infection when caring for potentially infected people, but it seems that wearing those masks in public isn’t particularly useful for self-protection.
Cloth masks have become quite easily available through online shops, sewing patterns and guides for improvising with a scarf, bandana or even a t-shirt. While they don’t provide a great deal of protection for the wearer, they do reduce the number of viral particles exhaled. That means that they help protect the community as a whole, if only very slightly.
If you do decide to wear a mask, it’s important though to make sure that you wash it every time you use it, don’t share it with anyone, and most importantly: don’t let it make you complacent. Without full-body PPE you’re just about as susceptible to the virus as you are with a cloth or even medical-grade mask. Make sure you wash your hands regularly and keep as much social distancing between you and those around you as you would without a mask.
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
The majority of our orders go to individuals or households, but we are also working with some of the domestic abuse shelters in the city, helping to support their residents. These people are already some of the most vulnerable in our society, and it is vital that we make sure they are not forgotten or put at greater risk.
Last week we were delighted to hit our fundraising target of £5,000! Although some of our costs are relatively low, as everyone at NFS Bristol is a volunteer and most of our ingredients are donated to us, we still have quite a few outgoings.
We do pay some rent and utilities for the spaces that we use, and one of our largest costs is keeping these spaces safe for all our volunteers. This means paying for insurance, cleaning, and repairs. Decontaminating the kitchens after each shift is a big job, as is maintaining our equipment. There is also often a shortfall of veg, which we have to make up by buying from wholesalers. A really large cost has been freezers: these typically cost about £500 each, and we have had to buy three. We also spend around £300 a week on containers to put each meal portion in.
Our support of the community would not be able to happen without support from you. Whether you are giving time or money, we are so grateful for the difference you are making. These are not one-off costs, but continuous ones, so if you are able to financially support NFS Bristol, you can donate here.
A donation of £10 will buy 50 containers, enough for us to deliver meals to 10 people.
If you are part of an organisation which is looking to donate some money during this crisis, £500 buys a new freezer.
As alays, keep up the great work, we’ll see each other through this.
– Louise, Carys, Pete and the coordination team