Friday 12th June 2020
Caritas Westminster has joined Feed Up Warm Up and Hitchin Food Provision Team to support families in need during the COVID-19 crisis.
Hitchin Food Provision Team is a collaboration of local groups. In addition to Caritas Westminster and Feed Up Warm Up, the partnership includes Hitchin Partnership, Rotary Club of Hitchin Tilehouse, Hitchin Youth Trust, Zeo Church, Hitchin Volunteer Army, Hitchin Round Table and Letchworth Foodbank. The mission of the group is to support families and children in Hitchin, who are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Caritas Westminster’s North Hertfordshire Development Worker, Elizabeth Wills, has been an integral part of the work achieved by Hitchin Food Provision Team. Elizabeth collects regular donations of fresh food from suppliers and supports the delivery of food parcels and meals to families on a weekly basis.
Hitchin Food Provision Team is helping those who have experienced job losses or reductions in income, as well as those who have had to self-isolate due to the virus. The pandemic has forced many families into financial insecurity and exacerbated the needs of those who were already struggling. With most children off school, families are also missing out on the government’s free school meals scheme, which ordinarily operates during term time. The Government’s national voucher scheme (£15 per week, per child), designed to replace free school meals during the crisis, has proven to be a flawed initiative, limited in its reach.
Hitchin Food Provision Team, which assembled just 2 months ago, is already supporting 90 families with regular food parcels, hot meal deliveries and supermarket vouchers. Many of these families have been identified by local schools. A third of these families are entitled to receive the government’s free school meals vouchers. The remaining families receive supermarket vouchers from the project, a total of £60 a week for a family of four.
The food parcels are made up of food that has been donated by a variety of generous contributors. These include a local bakery (which provides over 70 loaves of fresh bread each week), Edible London (an organisation tackling food waste and food poverty, which provides crates of fresh fruit and vegetables each week), as well as parishioners and members of the local community, who regularly donate non-perishable items. The food is stored in the parish hall at Our Lady Immaculate and St Andrew, Hitchin, before it is delivered to families in need.
Speaking about the support her family has received from Hitchin Food Provision Team, one mother said:
‘It means the world to us. You guys have made sure my children go to bed full and that I don’t have to lie to them one night a week, when they normally ask, “Where’s your food, Mummy?” and I go, “I’ll eat when you [are] in bed” and I never do … just to make sure they eat for the week. They love it on a Monday, when we can sit and eat together. It’s the best day when the food angels come, they tell me.’
Another mother also expressed thanks for the support given to her family:
‘Thank you again for the overwhelming kindness and food I have received today … you guys are amazing and [it] makes me cry, knowing how kind some people can be.’
As well as supermarket vouchers and food parcels, Hitchin Food Provision Team has been able to help deliver hot meals, thanks to the assistance of Feed Up Warm Up, a social outreach project supported by the parish community at Our Lady and St Andrew, Hitchin. Feed Up Warm Up is a charity which provides drop-in centres in Hitchin and Stevenage, for homeless guests to access food, clothing, and support. Since its inception, the charity has received advice and operational assistance from Caritas Westminster. In response to the current crisis, Feed Up Warm Up has extended the scope of its work to support families and other individuals in need. The charity is contributing to the collaborative efforts of Hitchin Food Provision Team by cooking and distributing hot meals, using the kitchen facilities at Our Lady and St Andrew’s Church. The hot meal delivery service has been vital in supporting the increasing number of people in need. When the hot meal delivery service began in the first week of May, Feed Up Warm Up provided hot meals for 12 people. By the end of May, this number had increased to 112 people.
Speaking about her work with Hitchin Food Provision Team, Elizabeth Wills, North Hertfordshire Development Worker at Caritas Westminster, said:
‘Working with the Hitchin Food Provision Team has been a wonderful opportunity to work with other community groups, from all faith backgrounds and none. It has showed us that irrespective of our different beliefs, we can all work together for the common good.’
‘Many of the families we serve are in a position where they don’t have money to buy even the smallest treats for their children. Being able to support them at such a time has truly been a humbling experience.’
If you would like to support the work of Caritas Westminster, you can donate at bit.ly/caritasdonations
If your parish or school needs support to help those in your community, please contact email@example.com.