It’s no doubt that the COVID-19 crisis has changed our lives; from the way we eat, work, travel to the way we interact with our neighbours. Recent polling* reveals that 6 in 10 people have talked to their neighbours in the past week, compared to 3 in 10 people surveyed this time last year. This has highlighted the importance of strong, resilient communities who can support each other in times of need. Some people have seen this crisis as an opportunity to take tangible action to address the issues their communities are facing and create lasting impact. 

Over the past two months we’ve been shining a light on #LocalFoodHeroes who are going over and above to still share food safely during the lockdown. We’ve received nominations and heard amazing stories across the country, from Cornwall to Edinburgh. These community leaders have passion, determination and generosity like no other and we’ve been humbled by their stories. Some of our heroes are also running community fridges through the support of the Community Fridge Network. We provide free support to any group across the UK who want to set up a fridge as safely as possible, and there are currently 95 of them. During this time, some of them are closed and getting ready to re-open safely whilst others are still operating but very differently to comply with lockdown rules. We want to celebrate them allTake a read of these stories below. 

Helen in Milton Keynes

"We currently operate a food delivery service to doorsteps. We've partnered with SOFEA/FareShare for a guaranteed source of surplus food, focused on organisations we know have the most waste, and we are collaborating and signposting other food projects to have the greatest impact. Like many venues, our biggest challenge is to keep The Old Bath House and Community Centre open beyond the crisis. We're working hard behind the scenes to fundraise and promote the fantastic initiatives and enterprises that our community are sharing. Most importantly, we are planning a huge feast and party to bring everyone together once the lockdown is lifted!"

Babs in Cornwall

"Stayathome Cornwall is social care agency and a part of The CHAOS Group so we are very fortunate we have a fantastic staff team who pop in and collect boxes to help with the more difficult deliveries. From the day we went into lockdown we needed to think differently as people still needed to be feed. It was about using every resource we had to meet the need – People helping people is the only way to go for us and from this basic belief we stumbled across Food2Share which is now what our community fridge has morphed into. It does what it says on the tin – share food. What became very obvious was alongside the gratitude, people felt was a sense of shame from their perceptions of needing to receive charity. This did surprise me as from working with a community fridge I hadn’t seen this before. Coming from a starting place 4 years ago of wanting to stop good food going into landfill we find ourselves rapidly developing a fantastic model which takes the shame out of needing help, as you are helping others while meeting your own needs. In a nutshell, people have a box for themselves and I ask them to deliver and leave on the doorstep of people who aren’t able to collect or leave the house. We save fuel as we ask people to deliver in their area or on the direct route home. I have seen real magic happen within local communities with people from different walks of life and friendships and bonds made that will out see Covid -19!"

Clare in Surrey

"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. We are working with local agencies and community groups to identify the most needy. 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 in Edinburgh

"Many of our community members have been greatly affected. These are the people who could not afford to stockpile as they barely have enough money to live on. On the other side, there’s a huge amount of food being wasted. We've changed the way we operate to focus on delivering directly to households. We believe that by continuing to operate, we will get the food where it is most needed and at the same time save the planet. Deciding who should be given a food parcel list is now becoming a challenge as the demand is increasing every day. In addition to this, although we are getting a good amount of food surplus from retailers, the variety isn’t great."

Sharon in London

"We must connect with the community, especially vulnerable residents who have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic. We have teamed up with the Mayor's Fund for London (Kitchen Social) Berkeley Homes and The Felix Project to operate an emergency food service 'Sky Hub Emergency Food Hub' to where our amazing team of volunteers prepare and deliver hot and nutritious meals right to these household's doorsteps. Not only are we trying to tackle food insecurity on the Woodberry Down estate with this essential service, but we also aim to combat social isolation, as many of the residents are self-isolating. We may be the only contact that they have for the week, which allows us to ask about their welfare and refer them to other local service providers who are still operating." Quote from our lead meal facilitator Lydia "We are currently delivering meals to elders that can't cook for themselves, not to mention parents with young children who can't go out and shop for a number of reasons." Quote from MHDT (Manor House Development Trust) "We anticipate the effect to last long after the virus has subsided. Many livelihoods have already been greatly impacted, leaving families at risk of food poverty for the unforeseeable future."

Kate in Southwark

"We started by massively ramping up our surplus food collections and added in Fareshare deliveries, and now receive over a tonne of food to redistribute a week. We recruited an amazing new team of 40 volunteers who unpack and sort surplus, help cook healthy meals to be frozen and then deliver food packages out to households. What are your motivations? In these strange times we have to support each other and look after our communities. Having a community fridge put us in a strong position to ramp up our surplus food services and make sure everyone who needs support can access healthy, nutritious food at this time. What are your challenges? Initially trying to balance the supply and demand of food and getting our hands on enough fridges and freezers! As we move forward it is working out how we can sustainably continue to run our project as we move to the next phase of the COVID response."

Kay in Lancashire

"The Larder responded to the Coronavirus crisis by switching its operating model quickly from café and catering business, to the preparation and delivery of “home-cooked” nutritious meals to people who would otherwise struggle to keep themselves fed during the crisis. After holding an emergency meeting for potential partners on the 16th of March, we began ‘Cooking for our Community’ the following week and are currently getting referrals from Social Services, Housing Associations and Age Concern. In addition to meal provision the Larder are offering online cookery courses. At Easter, an online version of the holiday hunger programme ‘Kids in the Kitchen’ was delivered to 36 participating families along with ingredient kits. Plans are now in place to deliver the programme to 120 families over the summer break Our recovery strategy, which involves providing access to affordable local produce to people on low incomes, is now being planned."

Emma in Lancashire

We provide services to vulnerable people, including homeless, mental health, emotional health and wellbeing, and social inclusion cafes. We work with those who have multiple and complex needs, they are often overlooked or forgotten by main stream services. We save people’s lives and change people’s lives. Emma is part of Birchwood’s Self Isolation doesn’t have to mean social isolation project, which is a direct response to Covid 19. She delivers food hampers and has cooked over 7,000 freshly cooked meals, which have been described as restaurant standard. She provides emotional support. She is an inspiration and a ray of sunshine, kind and caring. She gives her whole self to the project and she is a highly qualified chef.

James in Witney

James set up a community fridge in 2019 and has always worked tirelessly to engage residents with food waste whilst simultaneously uniting the community. The lockdown has been no exception. He took it in his stride, working as hard as ever to provide food for residents most in need. At the beginning of lockdown, the fridge was flooded with food where restaurants closed and were unable to use their ingredients. One day a company even offered the fridge 300 eggs! Since then, taking onboard government advice, we've been able to keep the fridge open, with limited hours. We’ve created food packages to help those most in need such as residents who have been made unemployed or are isolating. James and other volunteers have even set up a working relationship with a local courier who has been able to deliver food parcels for free. James always goes above and beyond to look after others, before thinking about himself. When it comes to food, he’s a real hero. Not only by the huge quantity that he has saved from waste, but in helping others when they need it most and enhancing their understanding of food.

Do you know a #LocalFoodHero?

The individuals above are only some of the many local food heroes across the UK. They help provide people in their communities 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.

*Telegraph