New scheme to help people access food and essentials during COVID

We will soon be launching a new scheme to ensure that people who are struggling to afford food and other essentials because of the impact of COVID-19 are able to access them.

We have received almost £343,180 from the Government’s Emergency Assistance Grant for Food and Essential Supplies to help those most in need due to ongoing financial difficulties caused by the pandemic.

During lockdown, we and our partners ensured that 909 households who were shielding but had not yet received their Government food parcels or who had no money for food were able to access it through the Caring for Plymouth scheme. Around 3,300 people were supported at the height of the programme, with 30 organisations providing around 70,000 meals.

The continuing impact of COVID-19 will mean that increasing numbers of people are expected to find themselves in financial difficulty and may have periods when they have no food. Unemployment and the number of benefit claimants are set to double by the end of the year and it is estimated that many more people will be requesting support from food aid organisations.

To help ensure the city can respond to increased demand and provide food to those who are most in need, a new contract will be signed with Food Plymouth to co-ordinate and manage a depot on behalf of a collaborative food sector alliance.

We will work with FareShare, Food Plymouth and Provide Devon to co-ordinate all the local foodbanks and other informal food aid organisations and ensure they can work collectively to reach everyone in need. We will also work with the South West Food Hub CIC to co-ordinate food donations and buy, store and distribute food and other essentials in the most effective and efficient way possible. 

A grant scheme will be opened to help smaller and grassroots food organisations, as well as organisations that: 

  • are able to reach particularly vulnerable groups of people
  • are developing self-help approaches to food
  • give information and advice on benefits, finances, employment and other sources of support.

A dedicated phone line will also be provided, with advice and information on debt management and benefit claims, skills and employment opportunities and other support available, to help people move away from relying on short-term food aid.

Councillor Chris Penberthy, Cabinet Member for Housing and Co-operative Development, said: “Caring for Plymouth and the Good Neighbours Scheme have supported a huge number of people during the pandemic, particularly during the early response phase and through lockdown. However, the impact of COVID-19 will be long-lasting and we expect many more people to find themselves in financial difficulty as the crisis continues, particularly if we see a large local outbreak or are faced with further lockdown measures.

“We need to do all we can, with our partners, to ensure those who urgently need food and essentials can get them, as well as help people access advice and support on money matters, learning and employment opportunities and other sources of financial support. This scheme will bring all key partners together to ensure the city can continue to respond to residents’ most basic needs as the challenges of COVID-19 continue.”