Despite the lockdown, my kids and I are well served for food at the moment. I’ve given up on Ocado and avoided supermarkets. Instead I’m shopping at our local, well-stocked Turkish grocery in Tower Hamlets.
I’m well, able to leave my home and queue. I can also afford the larger once-a-week grocery bill to limit my exposure to others. In many ways my family have never eaten better; wholesome homemade meals with less meat. My daughter has been filling time flexing her baking muscles, so we’ve no shortage of cookies, cakes and brownies.
I wish it was the same for everyone.
Whilst no one is immune to contracting the virus, community members already experiencing health, social and financial inequality are hit hardest.
People with multiple vulnerabilities have increased risk of contracting and dying from the virus. They are also most likely to suffer disproportionately from the lockdown and economic fallout of the pandemic.
Stateside, “In cities across America, many low-income workers continue to move around, while those who make more money are staying home and limiting their exposure to the coronavirus” (New York Times).
“We serve a relatively young, deprived, multi-ethnic population in Hoxton in London’s East End. People in their 50s suffer a burden of diseases like heart disease, lung disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer, that people in wealthier areas don’t experience until they are in their 70s. All of these increase their risk of dying from Coronavirus. Lockdown hits them harder too.”
We see this first-hand at Shoreditch Trust
Last week, one of our clients was struggling to feed herself and her child. She is pregnant, with a young son, living in a hostel. Pregnant women are advised to self-isolate, but she relies on food banks for essentials and her kitchen is shared.
Another client, accessing our stroke survivor service has limited mobility and depends on a paid carer to visit once a day, heat a ready meal and help her eat. When they arrived, there was no food in the flat, no ingredients, and no cash to go and buy emergency provisions. The client’s next benefit payment would arrive in 6 days.
As the lockdown continues these cases will increase. Whilst the curve of infection may be flattened, the economic and social effects are exploding. For those in need the worst is yet to come.
We’re adapting and responding fast
Shoreditch Trust, like many charities and essential services, is struggling to adapt fast enough to meet urgent community need.
Five weeks ago, we suspended face-to-face support to keep clients and staff safe. We immediately contacted hundreds of clients, putting in place emergency support plans providing regular telephone contact. Responding to safety and welfare concerns.
We developed and launched an emergency cooked food programme, transforming our social enterprise restaurant, WaterHouse, into a community food hub, delivering to people in urgent need.
Our first delivery of ingredients arrived on April 1st. The service has grown from 100 two-course meals in week one, to 300 in week three; delivered by a small, dedicated team of staff and volunteers, including our Head Chef.
We’re being asked to do more
Referrals have increased and are growing week on week. As a result, we are fundraising to scale up the programme to deliver over 1,000 meals a week.
We are prioritising those who are seriously unwell, been advised not to go out but don't have support networks to deliver food, and don’t have access to safe cooking facilities.
In the past three weeks, we have been asked by clinical and council partners to extend the programme to:
We will continue to adapt rapidly, to build the ship while we’re sailing it.
For those living in poverty and with health inequalities, recovery from the pandemic will be a marathon, not a sprint.
Shoreditch Trust doesn’t normally ask individuals to fund our community programming. But this is a time of unprecedented suffering.
Connecting with and supporting others, helps us cope with our own anxiety. Many of you are already doing this; practicing social distancing, caring for your family, friends and neighbours, and delivering essential services. You are helping those closest to you.
For most of those we’re supporting, this help simply doesn’t exist.
If you are able, please consider how you can extend help to members of our community being hit hardest by the pandemic.
The crisis has encouraged people and organisations to connect in unprecedented ways. I hope this sense of connection will continue to grow once the pandemic passes.
Sadly, inequality in Hackney and other boroughs will remain once ‘normality’ returns. Over half the children in Hackney primary schools are eligible for free school meals and deprivation among the elderly is more than three times the national average.
So please consider extending help now in any way you can.