The Greenwich Cooperative Development Agency (GCDA), working in partnership with the Royal Borough of Greenwich, Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT) and a host of other local organisations, quickly mobilised to develop a structure of food support for vulnerable residents, regardless of their ability to pay, and recognising the broad spectrum of vulnerabilities that may impact one’s ability to access nutritious food at this time.
The speed and sophistication with which the response has been set up benefits immensely from the well-established relationships between the local authority and community and voluntary sector organisations, as well as food businesses and enterprises committed to providing healthy, equitable and sustainably produced food. While financial resource is a crucial factor in a successful emergency response, Greenwich proves that mutually supportive relationships and a culture of collaboration are key ingredients in the resilience of a local food system.
Greenwich Cooperative Development Agency works in collaboration with the Royal Borough of Greenwich Council and a wide range of public, private and third sector organisations as part of joint initiative to transform their local food system called Good Food in Greenwich. They are a founding member of the UK Sustainable Food Places Network.
Claire Pritchard, Director of GCDA, says:
It has really helped to have a trusting relationship with the council and commissioners for them to say ‘do what is the best use of your time and money.’ Organisations with historical and stronger relationships with councils are really able to mobilise quicker. And it takes a partnership approach – councils or community voluntary sector cannot do this on their own. Having the Sustainable Food Places partnership as made the biggest difference!
The Greenwich needs assessment and response pathway is split into three broad categories of situations people may find themselves in limiting their access to food: financially secure but unable to shop, financially insecure and unable to shop, and financially insecure but able to shop. The support model operates on a ‘money first’ principle, prioritising getting money into people’s pockets where possible so they are able to shop for themselves, thus leveling the need for coordinated support to a manageable level and allowing for scaling up as support needs rise.
Support is delivered through a “hub and spoke” model. Triaging people into the three categories is handled centrally by CACT, packing the food boxes is overseen by GCDA, and the delivery of the boxes is managed by the Royal Borough Of Greenwich team, which delivered to people the day after an order is placed.
Community support/Covid-19 Mutual Aid groups and social housing providers signpost requests for food assistance through the Community Trust, but can also secure other support for local residents directly through the local food hubs, such as surplus food and cooked meal offers. They also signpost to local food business networks that can offer direct home deliveries.
This support is offered to people who are vulnerable due to one or more factors but are not receiving direct government support through the “shielded” programme. People who are unable to shop for themselves are offered a food box delivery. Those who can pay can either do so online to GCDA or via a phone payment to the Council. Those who cannot are offered a free box. People with specific dietary requirements are offered shopping support directly by trained volunteers following government safe help guidance. People who are able to shop for themselves but lack money are signposted to an Emergency Support Scheme to access welfare assistance funds.
The food boxes meet nutritional and food safety guidelines. There are options for vegetarian or meat-containing boxes, single or family size, as well as ready meals (prepared by the borough school meals partner, GS Plus) and boil in bag options for people who are unable to or lack equipment to cook meals from scratch. Where necessary, boxes can also contain hygiene and sanitary products.
Shopping support and food box offers are also available to frontline and key workers unable to access food through traditional means due to work constraints. Ikea has offered its staff to help pack boxes and distribute them using its ample car parking space, allowing for safe distancing when collecting.
In addition to food boxes, community groups associated with local hubs are also providing community meals on wheels services, cooking up 2,000 ready meals a week. But emphasis is placed on taking people through the support helpline to receive the most appropriate support and ease pressure on community capacity.
GCDA and partners are also working with the local food business networks in a number of ways. Firstly, residents are encouraged to shop and order food from local businesses wherever possible. Secondly, they have launched a fortnightly Good Food in Greenwich box scheme to support local ethical food businesses to continue accessing customer markets.
GCDA is also developing a coordinated scheme for local food businesses that might not otherwise be able to promote their food online to customers, nor to offer home deliveries unless packaged up with a wider food offer.
They also working with chefs and commercial kitchens to prepare some of the meals, and are looking to be able to pay them for their services following an initial outpouring of good will and free support, as this will further protect the local food economy.
At the outset, Greenwich council has given GCDA £160,000 to set up and pay for the food box provision scheme. GCDA also secured the go-ahead from their commissioners to use existing commissioned time to cover coordination of both box schemes. GCDA is looking to work with local businesses in the Good Food in Greenwich box scheme to help cover the cost of deliveries using their vehicles and overheads.
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