‘Coronavirus showed us the reality and scale of poverty in our city’

Food poverty is going nowhere, but these pubs, who’ve been providing support over the last year, are running out of money for the scheme.

Photo: Mark Simmons

When coronavirus hit, we mobilised to ensure no one in our community went hungry. 

For over a year now, a few local pubs have been providing free weekly veg boxes for anyone who needs one. We are not a charity; we are a collective of pub workers and pub goers who have come together in solidarity. With the support of our neighbours, we committed, at the start of the pandemic, to providing those facing hardship and hunger with the basic provisions of fresh fruit and vegetables.

In this process, we have learned a lot about the reality and scale of poverty in our city. Pre-coronavirus, more than one in five people in the UK lived in poverty. Over half of all people in poverty are either in work, or living with a working age adult. 

In the last year, we have raised over £100,000, and have packed and delivered more than 30,000 veg boxes. We have over 1,000 volunteers delivering as far as Yate, Kingswood and Southmead to 600 homes a week. It’s a massive undertaking for a few small local businesses. We’ve just started working with Breaking Bread’s new social food project “Team Canteen”, as home delivery is becoming impossible to sustain over the long term. They will be taking on the  logistics, and have been exploring different avenues to set up collection hubs across the city. 

‘Lockdown is ending and we’ve got to get back to work, but the need is still here’

As the world opens up, we don’t expect food poverty to disappear. We are struggling to keep up as we return to work and money is running out. We asked the veg box recipients what would happen if the scheme stopped, and the answers they’ve given are stark. 

“I would struggle massively. It has helped me be able to make proper meals, and as I suffer with a severe eating disorder, this is extremely  helpful.” 

“I’d be devastated. My income was stopped due to covid (I lost my job). I’m currently living off of £250 a month, including all bills, for me, my partner, and two kids. I’ve been relying on these boxes to allow us to have some fresh fruit and veg.” 

“Your veg boxes have really, really, really helped us throughout this winter; I would hate for them to stop. You have all done such a good job. I would not afford a selection of fruit and veg weekly, as I do not get enough benefits to even cover my rent.” 

“It’s been such a huge help knowing I have fresh fruit and veg guaranteed each week, and would struggle without it. We rely heavily on this food veg box. I fear my kids won’t be able to have a balanced decent diet, as we have been massively affected by the pandemic.” 

The need is still very much there but we can’t continue on our own. Other than being awarded a medal by the mayor, we have had little engagement from local government. The least I’d hope, from whoever is elected to post, would be that they read the quotes from our recipients and give us a call. We remain committed, but need help. 

To donate to the Community Care Package, visit their fundraiser and to refer yourself (it isn’t means tested) use their online form. You can also support by buying a veg box for £10, £5 of which goes to provide one for someone who needs it. 

The Bristol Cable