March 2020 saw the number of people needing food support surge due to the impact of food shortages and lockdown restrictions.
To respond to the unprecedented levels of need, new citywide emergency food processes were established, with representatives from council services working alongside the Food Aid Network, FareShare, Rethink Food, Trussell Trust, Voluntary Action Leeds, FoodWise Leeds, and Leeds Community Foundation.
A COVID-19 Helpline was established alongside the existing Local Welfare Support Service. Systems were set up to ensure food and support was accessible and could be provided to those most in need and impacted by COVID-19. In addition to food parcels, the service offered other support with shopping, prescriptions, fuel, hygiene products, baby products, and welfare/befriending telephone calls.
The Council set up a temporary food warehouse to enable the provision of food parcels. Support was delivered by the council, in conjunction with the third sector and volunteers, through 27 Community Care Hubs, located across all 33 Leeds wards. Adaptions to the service and food bag contents were made to respond to cultural and dietary needs.
An estimated 64,000 food bags (equivalent of 34,000 food parcels) were distributed from the food warehouse over the course of 24 weeks between March and September 2020. The Council also provided breakfast and lunch bags to up to 230 temporarily rehoused homeless people every day, totalling 68,000 meals over the period.
During the school closures, schools worked with the council’s catering team to support those children eligible for free school meals with vouchers, meals and food hampers. Over the period of full and partial closures, 95,826 daily lunch bags and 170,910 family food hampers (food to cover 3-5 days) were provided.