COVID-19 Response: Supporting isolated older people with Bristol Community Transport

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, over 70-year olds across the country have been asked to shield themselves from the Coronavirus in their homes. For many, this has resulted in new forms of food insecurity, and a real risk of hunger to those who are isolated and vulnerable.

For older people who have been asked to shield at home, every outing poses an infection risk. Those without the safety net of family and friends to lean on face are new barriers to navigate as a result of lockdown which are unique to older generations, from financial struggles resulting from banks being harder to access, to difficulties in placing online food deliveries.

Bristol Community Transport (BCT), a local organisation which supports over 1,500 older and vulnerable people with their minibus service, contacted FareShare South West at the start of lockdown as they knew they were well placed to support their vulnerable passengers. Together, we launched an emergency partnership that would mean the isolated older people they support would not fear going without food, while staying protected from infection.

We were able to respond quickly, and within a week had set up a partnership to deliver food to BCT. Food was sourced from the food industry, and weekly orders picked and stored in our warehouse by our volunteers. BCT then collected the food each week, and their own volunteers packed individual food parcels to be delivered to the doorsteps of those passengers they know are in need each week.

Since launching the partnership just a few weeks ago, FareShare South West has delivered over 8 tonnes of food to BCT. Thats enough for over 19,000 meals so far. Lily Geraghty, Service Delivery Manager at BCT says:

Families and friends stepped in to help many of our elderly passengers and some are able to navigate online shopping. However, there are still many who we know don’t have anyone to help them. BCT Connect reached out to ensure someone was looking out for them. With the amazing help and support of FareShare South West, The Marmalade Trust and Age UK we have delivered hundreds of food parcels since this crisis began. Each week, we have more people asking for help. FareShare South West have always responded to the need wherever they can. We collect large quantities of food from FareShare every week and break it down into food boxes in our repurposed training room. We then load up vans and our amazing drivers deliver essential emergency food parcels to those that need it most.

The support Bristol Community Transport can provide as a result of the food parcels goes beyond just the food:

Each week we call to check whether they need a food parcel. It is also an opportunity to have a quick chat and find out how they are. Many recipients of the food parcels report that this small service means the world to them. They feel valued, cared for and not forgotten.

One passenger sent a card which read:

Thank you SO MUCH for what you sent. I am ok at the moment. It brought a tear to my eyes. Usually I never cry. There were many lovely items in my parcel, just what I wanted potatoes, milk, bread etc). My neighbour might need help- I will put a note through her door. Take care, and do not let this bug win!

Thanks to support from local funders covering our costs, we can provide food free of charge to BCT until the end of July. We are committed to supporting emergency projects throughout the COVID-19 crisis, stopping those in need feeling the threat of hunger.

To support us to continue vital work like this, please consider donating to our charity: https://faresharesouthwest.org.uk/coronavirus-emergency-fund/

The food waste hierarchy calls for food to feed people first

Food companies are legally obliged to use food to feed people before sending to anaerobic digestion or for animal feed. We help them use their surplus to feed people first.

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