As the lockdown gradually begins to ease, it is time for us to reflect on all that has happened in recent months and work out how The Food Chain can provide the best possible support for our service users in the coming months, which we know are still full of uncertainty.
There is a great deal for us to think about and understand and we will see changes to our services.
We are currently providing support with groceries for around 4 times the number of households than usual. Each person referred to us during this time as been thrown into crisis by the arrival of Covid19 in the community and the need for lockdown. There are as many individual reasons as there are people, but some of the main issues our service users are facing are
- Needing to be shielded for health reasons, whether HIV related or because of additional health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease
- Being unable to leave home because of severe anxiety about catching Covid19
- Losing income because of not being able to go out to work, being on furlough or being made redundant
- Becoming homeless because of low or no income, or not being able to stay in friends’ homes during lockdown
- Having children and young people to feed at home who would usually be at school, college or work
- Facing difficulties with the payment of welfare benefits, or waiting for these to begin
We are in the process of talking to everyone on service individually to understand their personal circumstances and needs.
For some, the issues that caused the crisis will ease and we can move them off service with us safely.
For many others, the issues will take longer to resolve and they will need some further support.
Providing food for those who need it is our highest priority for now.
Our commitment is to provide support with groceries for as long as there is a need and we have the funding to do so.
We also know that our services are not just about food, essential though this is. Feedback from service users during our regular telephone calls tells us that the mental health impact of isolation is huge. Many people are lonely and depressed and deeply missing social contact with others. Our kitchen is place of safe social contact for so many vulnerable people and they are yearning to be back in company, sharing a meal with others.
We feel very sad that the possibility of retuning to ‘business as usual’ for our Eating Together and Eating Positively services is not yet a reality. In order to provide any form of face to face service in the kitchen there are a great many issues to think about and resolve to make a safe return possible, whether as staff, volunteers or service users.
We will be asking all the questions and sharing our thinking within the team about how we can do this in the coming weeks. We will also explore our ideas with service users and volunteers as these develop. There’s a lot ot chew over.
The Food Chain has a long history of being responsive and adaptable in the face of changing needs, and we know that if anyone can do this, we can!