As the Covid19 pandemic continues and people all over the world respond and adapt to all the challenges it brings, we are doing all we can at The Food Chain to continue to support all our service users in the ways that best meet their individual needs.
We know from research and news reports all over the world that it is the most marginalised and stigmatised communities in society that are disproportionately impacted by Covid19.
People with a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic background, people on low or no income, displaced people with uncertain immigration status, people in insecure housing or who are homeless, people who are already experiencing health inequalities are all amongst the most vulnerable.
Our service statistics tell this story loud and clear, in every detail.
For us to now be supporting 4 times the usual amount of people on service is a graphic illustration of how Covid19 is impacting people living with HIV in London.
For every ‘category’ described above we work with real people with real lives, facing hugely difficult and often heartbreaking circumstances. They are at the heart of The Food Chain.
For some, a telephone call for a chat with one of the team is every bit as important as the essential groceries we send. As the weeks go by, many of those who are not leaving their homes are feeling more and more unsafe and isolated, especially if they live alone. For others, the groceries themselves form the lifeline, making it more possible for them to feed families who are unexpectedly at home from school or work.
Some of the people referred to us because of the impact of the lock down on their income have never needed any help or support from an HIV charity before and for them, an onward referral to someone who can help them sort out a new claim for universal credit or a problem with their housing is of great value, along with the groceries we are able to send.
We are now providing support for more than 350 people and their families, and I can tell you that the team is doing an amazing job at keeping in touch with them all. We hear regular feedback from people about how important the social contact with us is at this time and how much they miss visiting the kitchen and sharing lunch in company. So even if we can’t be in a room together, we can be on the telephone and this is proving to be a very important part of our service right now.
I think most of us take for granted that our smartphones and laptops with internet access and unlimited data are just a part of our daily lives. A great many of us will have been using these to stay in contact with friends and family online or find something to entertain us during our time at home.
For a great many of our service users this digital access is just not possible. Most will have a phone we can call or text them on but they will have limited data and no internet access.
So even as the world moves more and more to providing services online, this group of people is at risk of being even more excluded and isolated than they already are. That’s not to say that online services are not to be welcomed, as they really do open up services for those who can access them. We will be doing our own work to make nutrition education, dietetic advice, recipes and online chats available for people too in the coming months and we see this is a good development.
But we will also be doing all we can to provide face to face meal services and nutrition and cookery classes when that becomes possible again.
We will work hard to make online access possible for everyone too. A lot of charities and funders are considering how this digital gap can be bridged. It needs funding and resources to make it possible. Inclusion for all will be our underpinning principle as we adapt existing services or develop new ones.
Alongside our service provision we will do everything we can to contribute to breaking down the health inequalities, stigma and discrimination faced on a daily basis by our service users. We will listen to and work with BAME communities to raise awareness of the issues and bring about change. We will contribute our understanding and commitment and will do all we can to bridge this huge gap.