Team effort to keep food support strong in pandemic

Somerset County Council has paid tribute to the partners who have helped make sure emergency food support has been readily available to anyone in Somerset who needs it throughout the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Set up with the help of Somerset’s Local Authorities at the start of the pandemic, the Somerset Food Resilience Taskforce has worked to identify the people in need of food support, ensure there is more than enough emergency food available to meet demand, and make sure that food can be safely distributed where it is needed.

In less than a year the Taskforce has grown to include 36 community food groups and has distributed more than 270,000 items of food to individuals and families across Somerset.

Councillor David Fothergill, Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “As a County we are clear that the people who know the community best are the community – and our strategy was to set up structures that help groups develop what is right for them.

“We want to thank all of the various partners who have given their time and expertise to deliver vital food support to the people of Somerset over the last year. This joined-up working has meant more people are accessing the help they need.”

Anyone who receives food support is made aware of the network of further support that is available, from prescription deliveries and help with transport, to financial advice and mental health support.

With funding and support from Somerset County Council, the Community Council for Somerset (CCS) Village Agents manage the Taskforce and help to co-ordinate the collection and distribution of food.

Food is supplied by groups such as Fareshare or generously donated by local companies such as Branston’s Potatoes, Oscar Meyer and Yeo Valley. School caterers have also produced more than 24,000 pre-prepared meals that get stored in two large community freezers ready to be collected when required.

Somerset County Council’s Community Transport team plays a pivotal role in making sure food is delivered to the community groups and the large freezers in Kilve and Charlton Mackeral are restocked.

Community groups and volunteers accept these donations and make them into food parcels or cook them up into nutritious meals, which can then go out to those in need within their local area.

Somerset County Council has also confirmed it will continue to fund Free School Meals provision for vulnerable families over the Easter holidays, and the Food Resilience Taskforce will be key in supporting this effort.

Cllr Clare Paul, Somerset County Council Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: “Through these food deliveries, community group leaders have told us that they have been able to connect to people that they haven’t been able to reach before. The food created the conditions that enabled people to open up and seek support.”

Through this network the CCS Village Agents have also coordinated collection and delivery of other essential items to families in Somerset – including 6,000 hygiene products such as clothes, nappies, and sanitary products, and more than 5,000 books.

Meanwhile CCS’s Smart Communities team are working with voluntary groups who want to supply meals to people in need in their communities, by providing them with fridges and freezers to store the food safely. Smart Communities also assist in aiding the groups to set up official charitable structures.

Work is underway to establish a sustainable model of food support for post-Covid which will continue to enable people to live independently by providing the appropriate support at the earliest opportunity.

Anyone in Somerset who needs support with access to food or medicines, or emotional and financial support, can call the Somerset Coronavirus Helpline on 0300 790 6275, seven days a week, 8am to 6pm, or visit the CCS Village Agents website


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