Flintshire's local response to Covid-19

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Well-Fed – from care home healthy meal provision to emergency food boxes 

We have been impressed by Flintshire’s rapid partnership response to Covid 19-related food challenges and look forward to pursuing conversations with them around embedding the local food partnership in Flintshire and eventually joining the SFP family! Watch this space.

Flintshire’s emergency food response to the Covid19 crisis offers some useful insights into how partnerships between local organisations that have the trust of the local community can respond quickly and in ways that reflect the needs of the community.

Since Covid-19 crisis hit, Well-Fed a community food enterprise providing healthy ready meals to care homes in Flintshire, has adapted its operation to respond to the overwhelming local need to provide emergency food. Well-Fed has been preparing and delivering over 3,000 healthy meals as part of Flintshire Council’s emergency food response. Alongside the healthy ready meals, the Council has been delivering slow cooker bags and ‘Well-Fed safety boxes’ (enhanced Welsh Government funded Shielded Boxes).

The ‘seven day’ safety boxes are being provided to those that are vulnerable, shielding for health reasons and those who need food support for financial reasons. The pre-cooked meals are provided alongside staple food items such as bread, eggs, pasta, fruits and vegetables and other fresh produce that is donated. The safety boxes also contain toiletries - items such as toothpaste and sanitary products, and recipes to help with how to use the safety box food items.

The emergency response is being co-ordinated by the Council through a well-established multi-agency Single Point of Access - a partnership between Flintshire County Council FCC, Flintshire Voluntary Sector Council (FVSC), other agencies and a team of volunteers. All requests for support are triaged through the Single Point of Access with weekly conference calls between the FCC and FVSC to ensure demand is being met and gaps in provision are addressed as far as possible.

At the time of writing the safety boxes are being funded directly by Flintshire County Council. There may be a time when this is reviewed but as with many local authorities the immediate need to provide food during the Covid-19 crisis was the priority regardless of whether residents could afford to pay for the safety box or not. But long term mechanisms will be put in place that enables the local authority, partner agencies and voluntary sector organisations to work collaboratively to triage requests for safety boxes into those that can afford to pay but can’t get to the shops for various reasons and those that are in financial difficulty due to Covid-19. This will support the ongoing effort to lower the ongoing cost to the local authority without increasing the burden of those in financial difficulties due to the crisis.

Collaboration, leadership and utilising existing strengths: from emergency response to healthy meal provision model fit for the future.

Well-Fed, a partnership between Flintshire County Council, Clwyd Alyn Housing Association and Can Cook was a practical response to a review commissioned by the local authority to map, understand and address the levels of rising food poverty in Flintshire.

There was a real appetite in the local authority to do things differently, to address the underlying causes of food poverty and to help people eat well. The review findings resulted in the Good Food Flintshire Charter. Following on from the charter the Good Food Flintshire partnership group was formed with the aims of broadening and strengthening Flintshire’s food poverty response by providing a long-term, sustainable and tailored approach to tackling food poverty.

The creation of Well-Fed was part of a wider initiative to explore innovative approaches to service delivery to residents in response to reductions in budgets. Flintshire County Council is committed to taking a structural approach to delivering social programmes and services that address food access issues. So alongside the local authority and Clwyd Alyn Housing Association, the largest social housing provider in the area, Can Cook, a CIC with a long experience of community cookery programmes and contract meal provision, offered the expertise needed for Well-Fed to take on catering contracts to provide healthy affordable meals in social settings.

Pre-Covid-19 Well-Fed were producing 2,500 meals a week for extra-care settings and care homes in Flintshire. Having worked together for over two years the Well-Fed partner organisations understood what skills, knowledge and experience they could offer and the leadership and trust needed to deliver an efficient, cost effective and locally determined response to the food crisis created by Covid19.

Future plans

Jen Griffiths, Benefits Manager at Flintshire County Council, who co-ordinates the emergency food response across the county believes the response to Covid-19 in Flintshire had a head start because of the pre-existing relationships and collaborative approach between the statutory agencies, voluntary and housing sectors and the community.

Jen reports ‘in the last week we have delivered 2500 meals, 100 slow cooker bags and 179 Well-Fed safety boxes’ and says ‘from our chief exec to my co-workers, to deployed staff and the team of volunteers and third sector partnerships it’s been collective effort to ensure vulnerable community members are supported through the Covid-19 crisis’.

‘We aim to continue supporting our community through this crisis whilst taking lessons learned to build better food provision across other services. Future plans to utilise the Well-Fed enterprise to explore other meal provision services include meals on wheels and hospital to home services.’

Looking ahead Robbie Davison, Can Cook CEO says the aim for Well-Fed is to take a ‘boxed food approach’ to support local communities who are struggling to get the food they need. He suggested that if you were to combine the best bits of Hello Fresh, Ocado at Aldi prices that’s what they are aiming their model to look like.