Mansfield District Council is working with two leading national charities to set up three food clubs in priority neighbourhoods to help the growing number of families who are at risk of facing hunger.
National reports have shown that the number of people facing food insecurity in Britain as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased four-fold. In Mansfield it means hundreds of residents are struggling to put food on the table.
As part of the humanitarian response to the pandemic, the council has agreed to contribute £7,800 towards the cost of setting up FOOD (Food On Our Doorsteps) clubs, which would give vulnerable people access to excess food destined for landfill at a vastly reduced cost.
The council is now working with Family Action (link to charity's website opens in new window) and FareShare (link to charity's website opens in new window) to set up Clubs in the Bellamy Road area and the Oaktree Lane area, supported by the local ward councillors, Cllr John Smart and Cllr Vaughan Hopewell. The third trial area will be determined in due course.
Cllr Amanda Fisher, Portfolio Holder for Communities and Wellbeing, said: "The Food Foundation commissioned a survey in April which found that more than three million people reported going hungry in the first three weeks of the coronavirus lockdown.
"It highlighted that the number of adults who are food insecure in Britain is estimated to have quadrupled under the lockdown.
"The Trussell Trust, which is responsible for nearly half the food banks in Nottinghamshire, reported an 81% increase in people needing support from food banks at the end of March compared with the same time last year and demand for food parcels from families with children has increased by 121%.
"This situation is only likely to continue or even get worse as the furlough scheme is withdrawn later this year and more and more people find themselves without a job, so we want to be prepared for that and support those families already in need in Mansfield.
"These FOOD clubs will be offering a new, pragmatic and sustainable way of helping this ongoing situation. We just don't want to see people choosing between heating or eating as the autumn and winter approach."
Included in the cost of setting up the three-year pilot schemes is the purchase of equipment, including fridges, and the training of a co-ordinator and volunteers.
FareShare collects the free donated food from food suppliers and wholesalers and delivers it to the FOOD club collection points and charges the FOOD club organiser (in Mansfield this is Family Action) a not-for-profit price for the weight of food delivered to cover their delivery and administration costs.
At the club collection points, the food is stored in fridges, freezers or storage cupboards, as appropriate, until it is split up into packs and collected by users.
The schemes work on the basis of membership. Each household pays £1 annually to join and then pays £3.50 a week to gain access to the food parcels which contain around £15 worth of fresh nutritious food for each member.
Larger families have the option of buying more than one pack. These are collected at a specific 15-minute time slot once a week from the collection points run by the club co-ordinator and volunteers.
Each club aims to have a maximum of 50 members. The income from the club is used to fund the part-time Family Action FOOD Club Co-ordinator and, via Family Action, FareShare’s costs.
Janice Swinn, a member of the scheme at Tuxford Court, said it had been a massive help during the school holidays.
‘It has been a really big help. We do use everything in the boxes and the kids love to help with the cooking.
"Last week we used all the ingredients to make a curry and they helped to prepare that. It has given them a bit more to do at home - they have even been trying things that they wouldn’t usually eat because they have made the meals themselves."
The FOOD Clubs will also be a way of providing a range of other support and advice services to communities around housing, finances, nutrition, exercise and also learning, skills and employment and volunteering opportunities.
A delegated decision to move forward with the FOOD Club scheme was taken by the council's Head of Housing, Jill Finnesey, last month (August) and reflects the council’s corporate priority for Wellbeing.
It is aligned to a raft of council Wellbeing schemes, including community allotments and orchards. Other areas of the district could be considered for further FOOD Clubs if funds became available and where the need is identified.
The council has been working with a range of stakeholders involved in the Mansfield Health Partnership on various ways of tackling food insecurity, targeting certain priority neighbourhoods in the district.
Among the other food banks and food share schemes the council has been supporting are:
- The Trussell Trust food bank in Mansfield.
- The Beacon Project, helping provide food for those housed as part of the government’s ‘everyone in’ campaign
- Bellamy ‘Foodshare’ scheme.