The COVID19 crisis has forced us to reconsider what is important in our lives.  The need to be close to our families, the importance of basic services and having access to food are suddenly front of mind.  These things will remain of huge importance as we rebuild the country. 

Central to the rebuilding process will be strong and resilient local communities prepared to provide support to the vulnerable and to build a strong sense of local well-being.  In many parts of the country these strong communities already exist. 

At Hubbub, we have been astonished at the number of local groups who have approached us to create Community Fridges which enable surplus perishable food to be collected and redistributed to the local community.  These fridges are run by a huge variety of community groups all driven by a desire to cut waste and provide a service to those who need it. 

In the space of just two years, a total of 95 Community Fridges have become established providing a new and welcome service for all local residents. The fridges also provide support for some of the most vulnerable in society and, up until government restrictions were in place, acted as places where people could socialise reducing their isolation. 

Since the restrictions were imposed the Community Fridges have faced a massive increase in demand whilst having to change the way they operate.  The fact that many have achieved this is due to the creativity, energy and commitment of some amazing Local Food Heroes. 

Below are three of their stories.  What is clear is that we need to acknowledge and celebrate the work of people such as these who provide an essential glue to keep communities together and who will be ever more needed as we seek to build a fairer and more sustainable UK. 

Helen from Milton Keynes 

The Old Bath House and Community Centre, coordinated by Helen Innes, is operating a food delivery service to doorsteps with the help of a team of low-risk volunteers. They are working with SOFEA and FareShare for a guaranteed source of surplus food and collect from shops who have the most waste; collaboration is key to their huge impact. Every week, their volunteers pack and deliver 140 5kg bags for vulnerable households and demand continues to increase. 
 
Like many community centres, their biggest challenge is to keep the centre open beyond the crisis. They are working hard to fundraise to secure their future and promote the impactful initiatives their community are running. But most importantly, they are planning a huge feast and party to bring everyone together once the lockdown is lifted and it is safe to do so! If you have other ideas to celebrate the end of lockdown with your community, Helen would love to hear them. 

Clare from Surrey 

When the lockdown was announced, Hubbub advised all Community Fridges to close or haul their entire operation to meet current government restrictions. Clare, who leads the Mid Surrey Community Fridges CIC has changed its operation from static fridges and a van to a referral-only bag drop service for the Mole Valley communities in Surrey. The massive demand has increased their workload by over three-fold. They are now redistributing almost double the volume of food pre-COVID-19, from 2 tonnes to 4.5 tonnes per week, a total of around 650 food parcels for vulnerable households. They are working with local authorities and the NHS to identify recipients of the parcels. 

Claire tells us "Through our food surplus work, we quickly realised how many people in our so-called affluent area are in food poverty. The current crisis has highlighted many, many people who are now without income, can’t leave their houses and have no outside support. The situation is changing literally hourly. What is also interesting is that social services, the council and every other agency I am dealing with are all having to react and create as they are going along, as we are. We have an amazing team of over 80 volunteers, many of whom are still working for us packing and delivering. I now work full time but unfortunately we only have enough funding for me to be paid one day a week." 

Jolly from Edinburgh 

Jolly coordinates the SCOREscotland Community Fridge in Edinburgh and the team have had to change their operations significantly. When the virus first hit the area, they asked users/visitors to stand in a dedicated corner and the team had to serve them. They could no longer open the fridge themselves. After the lockdown was announced, they focused on delivering food parcels by collaborating with Wester Hailes Together, who provided logistics support. 

With limited capacity and resources, Jolly and her team are finding it difficult to decide who should receive the food parcels as demand increases every day. Like the previous two heroes, Jolly and her team would also really benefit from more funding to meet the increased demand. 

Since launching our #LocalFoodHeroes series, we've received nominations of heroes from all over the country, and heard so many inspiring stories. Meet more of these Food Heroes and read their stories here. 

MEET MORE LOCAL FOOD HEROES

Do you know a local food hero? 

Helen, Jolly and Clare are a few of the many local food heroes across the UK supporting people in their communities to have access to food and support. Do you know a food hero in your local area? Join us sharing stories and celebrating them with #LocalFoodHero on social media.