In York more and more people are finding themselves unable to make ends meet due to the impact of austerity and the complexities of Universal Credit. Many people are facing food insecurity and unable to afford the weekly shop they and their family need. There has been lots of coverage about the crucial charities that provide meals for our homeless and disadvantaged communities and the ‘success’ of the Pay-As-You-Feel (PAYF) cafes popping up in York. I wanted to know more about who was providing them with their supplies, so I caught up with some of the great people behind these organisations to find out.
Nicky manages Carecent who provide breakfasts for the homeless, 6 mornings a week, from the Central Methodist Chapel in St Saviourgate.
“We are so massively grateful to Marks & Spencer at Vangarde,” she told me. “One night a week they offer us virtually anything we want; pastries, cakes, pizza and fruit, for example. We then either do a sort of ‘Ready Steady Cook’ with it, or just hand it out. The people there are so brilliant and so helpful, they really go above and beyond to support us. They provided us with all our food for our Christmas meal, it really is fantastic.”
“Honestly, we are offered so much we cannot use it all, and are very glad they also donate to other cafes and charities in the city. It really makes me smile every week!”
I was surprised Carecent also get a weekly delivery from as far away as the Co-op in Pocklington.
Jo, one of the founders of Chill in the Community cafe in Acomb, works tirelessly to ensure their open-to-everyone food bank is well stocked. They get a lot of their donations from Tesco at Askham Bar and Clifton Moor.
“The Community Champions, Petra Hilton and Caroline McDonald, at Tesco are absolutely brilliant” she told me. “As well as reclaimed food, they provide us with Easter Eggs and Selection Boxes at Christmas. They are always trying to do more for us.”
Chill also have good connections with partner food organisations, like Edible York and Abundance York, who bring excess fresh produce to them. Their link up with Colin, Chair of the city’s allotments, sees them getting donations of lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, and a local resident regularly brings in sacks of carrots and potatoes.
They are grateful to the Trussell Trust’s local Foodbank who donate tins and pasta whenever they have excess. Jo really wanted to stress that much of their food is fresh, not just close to its use-by date.
Helen, from Kitchen for Everyone York, told me how Appletons Butchers have provided them with pies and sausages on a weekly basis for well over a year. Great quality products that they freeze and when they have a big enough batch prepare a feast for their regulars at the Spurriergate Centre. As well as M & S, Tesco and Lidl, she also told me about Rosewood Farms and Grey Leys Farm in Elvington who donate milk.
She went on to say how the landscape in York has changed very much since they started up three years ago. “There are more and more people needing support. We now do a mini food bank on Tuesdays and Sundays to encourage self sufficiency and also do food parcels when we hear of people struggling on Universal Credit. Other cities are also donating food to York, we got a delivery from Doncaster just the other day.”
Rosie from York Food Poverty Alliance explained that the Red Tower on Foss Islands Road, who provide a Monday lunch time PAYF cafe, receive donations from the new Co-op on Paragon Street, Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose via Foodshare.
Her recently opened Planet Food PAYF cafe in South Bank also gets surplus food from traders on Bishopthorpe Road including Millies, Good Food Shop, Costcutter and M & K Butchers as well as Aldi, Morrisons and the Co-op. They have intercepted nearly 1,500kg of food in the last 2 months.
Rosie’s drive is very much in reducing the amount of food ending up in landfill, as well as providing a much needed service for those facing poverty.
She told me “Morrisons collections are now declining in amounts because they have told us they are reducing their food waste themselves, and we are very pleased to have played a part in their systems-change. Aldi have recently come on board and despite having efficient waste policies already, their staff are very helpful and enthusiastic, donating whatever they can due to packaging damage for example, products that would not sell in the store, but are perfectly fit to eat. It is vital that less food ends up in landfill in order to reduce the amount of harmful greenhouse gas emissions.”
She also sang the praises of the volunteers who enable these community food projects to happen. Many people offer their time, skills and vehicles to coordinate, collect, weigh, sort and redistribute food to places and people where it’s needed most.
My over riding sense on speaking to these organisations was how grateful they are to the large, and small, businesses in York who go above and beyond their duty to provide produce to help people in need, and how amazing the volunteers who help out are.
It is very humbling.
Want to get involved with tackling food poverty in York? Get in touch with the York Food Poverty Alliance.