Council volunteers deliver 1,000 food parcels thanks to coronavirus grant

VOLUNTEERS organised by Salisbury City Council have carried out almost 1,000 deliveries of 17,000kg of food to needy families in the city during the pandemic thanks to a coronavirus fund grant.

The council has been awarded £3,500 from the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund, which has now raised £1.1 million and distributed almost £700,000 to 180 groups.

Council communities manager Annie Scadden said the deliveries will be continuing until at least Christmas but she and her team are investigating ways to keep the service going permanently. She said they have been taken aback by the need it has uncovered.

They began working with food charity Anybody Can Cook, which receives excess supermarket food for cookery sessions to encourage healthy eating. Mrs Scadden said: “We recognised there was an issue with families living on The Friary estate, who were struggling to feed themselves because of zero hours contracts or being furloughed and we wanted to help.

“All the food Anybody Can Cook usually gets was going to waste because their sessions weren’t taking place, so we got together with them and decided we could distribute the food to those families in need.”

The communities team took referrals from the charity Spurgeons, as well as identifying families it works with anyway. “The deliveries have grown and grown and now we are supporting up to 60 families a week,” said Mrs Scadden. “Other families have been identified to us by various hubs and organisations that have developed over the course of the pandemic.

“It is a kind of a silver lining to the pandemic because it has enabled us to reach a lot more families than we normally would. It bothers me that so many of them are struggling but it is good to know we have managed to reach them.”

Three volunteers from The Friary pack up and deliver the food parcels, which contain five bags of fresh fruit and vegetables and chilled and non-perishable food.

“We contact each family every week to ask if they need anything and if they do we take it out,” said Mrs Scadden. “We also have volunteers from our own staff who are giving up their time to help with deliveries. A lot of our staff are working from home, so this is helping them keep in touch. We are a small enough council to be like a family who all just help out one another. That happens quite a bit across the council, regardless of what is going on.

“We are also working with Wessex Community Action, who are helping out with deliveries as well. We are very grateful to the Wiltshire Community Foundation for the grant, which is paying for the petrol to deliver the packages.”

As well as The Friary, the team delivers to families across the city, including in Bemerton Heath, Bishopdown and Laverstock. “We had no idea of the scale of this when we started, we thought we might support about ten families,” said Mrs Scadden.

“We will carry on as long as it is needed now. We have funding up until Christmas, but we need a longer term strategy. We are looking at food co-operatives or social supermarkets and other models where we enable the community to do it for themselves. There is obviously a need and whether what we provide is a community market or whatever, we need to do something.”

To volunteer or help with donations, contact Mrs Scadden at the council on 01722 417100.

Wiltshire Community Foundation interim co-chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “Each week we receive new applications for help from groups like this who are stepping up to deal with the effects of the pandemic. The crisis in funding, at the very time when their services are needed more than ever, means our fund will be even more vital in the coming months.”

Donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund here or apply for a grant here.

Pictured: Tara Hares packing a delivery of Salisbury City Council food parcels (main picture) and (below) Fran Knotts loading up