One of my 2020 wonderings: what happens to all the food that hotels would have ordered and stored when a new national lockdown is introduced? Well today I found out, got to meet some pretty inspirational locals, and had a nice morning workout (Egg @ Move the Masses would be impressed!).
This week I got a call from one of the North Star team. Malmaison had reached out to their suppliers for support for local Food Banks and they kindly donated to the cause. Now it was over to Social Vision to make sure the package was distributed to the right people across the city.
Having seen the packing list (5 pallets of produce from Lancashire-based Wellocks), and realising most of it was fresh, there was a bit of a logistical challenge – which of our brilliant food projects could facilitate such a large delivery, and was best placed to then redistribute across York? I often feel the first person you think of is usually the right one, and I needn’t have worried – where better to start than local legend John McGall of I am Reusable? Despite John having left hospital only hours earlier, a couple of Facebook messages pinged between us and we had a destination for the delivery – Bell Farm Social Hall – where Hilary ‘Patchwork’ Platt would store and redistribute the food to all of the smaller groups doing amazing work across the city, including: I am Reusable (Holgate), Danebury Drive Food Bank (Acomb), Door 84 Youth Club (Groves), Chapelfields Community Association (Westfield), York Traveller’s Trust (Guildhall / Tang Hall), HOPING Street Kitchen (City Centre), and Planet Food (South Bank).
So I headed over to the Social Hall first thing this morning to (what I thought would be) oversee the delivery and finally meet Hilary – someone who’s name I’ve heard so frequently, but never had the pleasure of meeting. In fact – can you believe this – I’ve spent my whole life in York, and have never once been in to Bell Farm?! I met Hilary’s husband, Jim, first, who gave me some background on what they do at the Hall. Here’s some of the staggering facts he shared:
- they’ve gone from supporting hundreds of families a week to thousands during 2020. A 10+ fold increase in demand for services!!
- throughout the summer holidays, they were making 130 pack ups a day to hand out to local kids (Marcus Rashford would approve)
- the people accessing their food packages has changed so much this year, with taxi drivers, teachers, and PCSOs all having to access support
- Jim is now delivering parcels of food all over the city
Next, onto the graft. The Wellocks lorry turned up, squeezed itself – with literally millimeters to spare – down the short passage off Roche Avenue that leads to the Hall. And with no tail lift in place, it was for the three of us (Jim, Hilary and myself) to unload five pallets of food. It was a great team builder (where’s GoodGym when you need them!), and what a lovely way to meet new people. Hilary brought me up to speed with some of the history of the Hall, and also some of their values, which really resonated with me.
I absolutely love meeting ‘unsung heroes’ – people who are genuinely supporting people for no reward or recognition. They’re happy to leave the fame to others in the city, and just get on with the day to day grind of supporting their local community. They never ask for any money from anybody – no pay as you feel or donations – and any surplus funds they have from grants they use to buy more food to give to more local families, or (lockdown notwithstanding) provide activities, support and advice around things like Universal Credit, social isolation, money or parenting worries, and sometimes just a friendly face and cup of tea.
This, for me, is true community spirit. People like Hilary and Jim are the reason I’m so passionate about our city. The ego is stripped away, and their existence is exclusively for the community in which they live.
With this in mind, I asked them: “what do you need, what can the Social Vision network do for you?” They simply asked for more food so they could continue to feed their community.
If you’d like to support Hilary and Jim, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org