Help the Hungry: Food deliveries ‘a lifeline’ for the vulnerable
Accounts from beneficiaries tell of relief brought by charities
The anxiety felt by thousands of people threatened by hunger during lockdown is a hidden phenomenon, but today the vulnerable spoke out about how food from our appeal partner, The Felix Project, has been “a lifeline”.
A mother and son, deemed high risk and having to self-isolate, told how Felix’s deliveries had lifted their spirits in the face of “hopelessness”. A nurse said meals cooked with fresh Felix produce made her feel “that little bit stronger”.
All told of their relief at being able to access healthy food, thanks to The Felix Project, one of the biggest food redistributors in the country, which has quadrupled daily deliveries to 40 tons since the outbreak of the virus.
Yesterday, in a sign of further upward spiralling demand, The Felix Project broke its own record, ferrying an extraordinary 44 tons to 73 schools and charities, with the heftiest deliveries going to 11 community super-hubs set up by councils as part of a pan-London effort to tackle food poverty in the wake of Covid-19.
Felix, on its own, is now supplying more than 100,000 meals a day, up from 20,000 at the start of the outbreak. This is what some of the beneficiaries, volunteers and charities had to say.
Family at high risk
Karen Barnes suffers from type 1 diabetes, an underactive thyroid and chronic back pain, and is a carer for her son, Aidan, six, who has health issues that affect his immune system
“We receive two boxes of Felix-supplied food a week, from Enfield Children and Young Persons Services, as my son and I are both categorised as high risk. We felt a bit hopeless about being in isolation. I don’t have much family and you don’t want to be a burden on other people. So these boxes are a lifeline. It’s exciting when they come as we’re on our own. The person who delivers them leaves them on my doorstep and we chat. It’s a nice interaction."
Kim Pallas is a nurse working 12-hour shifts at Barnet Hospital. She picks up dozens of cooked meals to give to her colleagues, made each day by BreadnButter, a social enterprise supplied by The Felix Project. Prior to the pandemic, BreadnButter taught cooking skills to community groups. It has adapted to the crisis by getting between 300 and 600 food parcels and cooked meals out each day to NHS staff and people in the borough having to self-isolate.
“All the patients in our hospital ward are coronavirus patients so it’s been difficult – very emotional and overwhelming at times. You’re just so grateful when fresh, healthy food is put in front of you and you don’t have to think about doing all the cooking,” said Ms Pallas.
“The support of the food charities is making a massive difference to people like us. To know people care enough about you to do this makes you feel that little bit stronger to cope with all that’s going on during the crisis. It makes you feel valued.”
Family living on the edge
Magda Bozek is a mother of two and part-time administrator at Southgate College. She struggles to make ends meet and has claimed universal credit since her husband died suddenly from lung cancer five months ago.
“I collect food parcels from my children’s school in Enfield once a week. We are in a very hard situation. When my husband died, my life was turned upside down. I was alone but had to look after my 11-year-old son David and six-year-old daughter Ola. I work so I’m lucky, but life is expensive. Felix is a huge help and – now that we are in isolation – so important. We leave the house once a week to collect our parcel so it’s the best part of our week.”
Domestic abuse survivor
Justine, 38, is a mother-of-four who escaped an abusive relationship and lives in temporary housing, claiming universal credit.
“I first heard about The Felix Project through my six-year-old son’s school and have been picking up weekly packages since the end of last year.
“At the moment, we are in isolation and things are tough, but Felix is a lifeline. I have used food banks in the past but they do not provide fresh food. There are luxury items in my Felix boxes that I could never afford, like Innocent Smoothies and mozzarella cheese. Picking up our box from the school is a weekly highlight. I don’t know what we would do without it.”
James Quayle is manager of North Paddington Food Bank: “Before coronavirus we were feeding 100 households per week but now we are supporting more than 600 families. We used to be open one day a week with The Felix Project delivering a single truckload of fresh produce, but since Covid we are open six days a week.
"We have increased our volunteers from a couple of dozen to almost 300 and I am working 14-hour days. The only other comparable thing was the start of the Syrian refugee crisis when I was on Lesbos and witnessed people coming off boats. Similarly, this feels like a tidal wave.”
James Smart, 36, is a volunteer at Made up Kitchen. The Hackney-based project had been bringing various groups together for regular “community feasts”. It stepped up to the crisis by delivering around 500 nutritious meals each week to people in the area who are struggling financially, thanks to 12 crates of surplus food given by The Felix Project each week.
Mr Smart – a chef and market trader who had been working at a cheese stall before it had to close – is now giving two days a week as one of half a dozen volunteers cooking and coordinating deliveries with Made up Kitchen.
“Like a lot of people my own situation feels uncertain,” he said. “This crisis has hit almost everyone in one way or another, which is quite scary. But it’s great that so many people have been getting out and doing something that matters for their community. We’re doing as much as we can right now, but there’s a lot of people who will need help.”
He added: “The Felix Project has been such a massive help. It’s so important they can operate on such a big scale across London because it makes so much of the work of smaller groups possible.”
The Independent is encouraging readers to help groups that are trying to feed the hungry across the country – find out how you can help here. Follow this link to donate to our campaign in London, in partnership with the Evening Standard.