With many people experiencing financial and wellbeing hardship during these uncertain times, it is time for our community to look out for one another. In Letchworth, there has been an incredible outpouring of support from groups, clubs and charities who have come together to help those impacted by COVID-19. Over the last two months, the Heritage Foundation has been working with these organisations to identify the level of need and create a working partnership across the town.
One of the problems some people are facing is food poverty. This is where either a person is finding it hard to access food (due to isolating and not being able to access food deliveries) or through monetary hardship (some have lost their income during the pandemic). The pandemic has meant some are experiencing hardship for the first time or are isolating and due to supermarkets becoming overwhelmed with orders, cannot get out to pick up basic supplies.
Ciara Ginty (our Communications & Marketing Business Partner for Charitable Services) visited some of the amazing volunteer run groups (at a proper social distance!) in Letchworth for a first-hand look.
Based near Letchworth town centre, the Salvation Army is acting as a food distribution hub for the town. Repurposing donated food packages and gifts from supermarkets, they make full and healthy parcels for distribution either directly to the community or to those who have been referred from a range of organisations including housing associations, the job centre and Citizens Advice.
Food is donated and packaged that day then sent to families and individuals who either cannot get out or have fallen on tough times. They carefully create parcels with the size of family and diet in mind.
Those running this service are careful to add cleaning products and enough fruit and veg to prevent any other illnesses coming about due to poor diet or not being able to clean homes properly.
Wendy Goodman, Major at the Letchworth Church said: “We can also provide sanitary parcels for those who need it as it is very important. We also make sure that people are able to get fresh fruit and vegetables which we provide in every parcel.”
Best Before Café
An initiative supported by the Heritage Foundation’s Grants Programme, the Best Before Café has gone from strength to strength since its inception by Suzy Holding in 2018. Starting in the food bank in north Letchworth, the café moved to Mrs Howard Memorial Hall in 2019 due to their success.
The café has adapted to the COVID-19 emergency by making food deliveries to those in need and sending surplus food from local supermarkets to local churches and other organisations that are distributing food. Having to ramp up their efforts meant the group needed money to purchase a new van to make their big deliveries and to pick up the vital food needed for this project. They have been able to purchase one with help from the Foundation, WRAP, donations from the public and Cllrs Terry Hone and Simon Bloxham. One of their volunteers said: “Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation found out we were going for the WRAP grant and offered to match fund it with £5K. Alastair Stewart was amazing and turned his end of the bargain round in four days!”
On my evening out delivering with the Best Before Café I met with a former customer of the café, Megan. She spoke to me about how amazing the service is and how much she misses the café being open. Megan had this to say: “I have seen the café go from strength to strength and even moving to a larger venue. I love it there because everyone at the café is friendly, they have helped me with so much over the years and it is great to meet new people from the area there. Since it has had to shut as a café, I have really missed the lovely cups of tea they make.”
Kings Community Church
The Kings Community Church takes deliveries from the Best Before Café and donations from North Herts District Council which are then redistributed to the community. Due to the unpredictable nature of these donations, the volunteers at Kings Community have come up with fun recipes for people to try out.
As the team sometimes has a surplus, they have been delivering treats to front line staff such as the police and care home workers to cheer their days and to ensure no food goes to waste.
Christine Wheatley, one of the brilliant volunteers at Kings Community Church said: “We have been picking food up from Hitchin Food Hub to give out as well to make sure no food goes to waste as this is a tough time, but due to food poverty nothing should be wasted or thrown away.”
The Heritage Foundation also counts Kings Community Church as one of the COVID-19 Catalyst Grants Programme successes as our financial help has meant this group can purchase washing products to distribute to the most vulnerable people in Letchworth.
Following these visits, I spoke to my colleague Alastair Stewart, Head of Grants, Partnerships & Community Services about how the Foundation responded to the COVID-19 emergency by creating the Community Response Team. Find out more here.
Thank you to everyone that allowed us to visit them.
It is to be noted that nothing is left on the premises of any of the groups that are assisting at this time as they all need to stay secure.
If you are in need of any assistance, please contact the Community Response Team on 01462 530360 or firstname.lastname@example.org