Calls for funds to feed Leeds and Wakefield – COVID-19 pandemic

Posted by Amy Gumbrell 17 Apr 2020

The founder of The Real Junk Food Project (TRJFP), Adam Smith, is calling for funding to support the charity’s efforts in feeding the vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Adam Smith mobilised TRJFP’s network of food suppliers, distributors and volunteers on Monday 23 March. This was from the charity’s HQ in Wakefield, and via temporary sites in Leeds. In response to the challenges created by panic buying, TRJFP prioritised those in isolation and those working for the NHS to ensure they could access essential supplies.

Founder of TRJFP, Adam Smith, said: “When the lockdown was announced, vast quantities of food were stuck in the supply chain whilst supermarket shelves were stripped bare of essentials. Hundreds of people were stuck in self-isolation without the necessary supplies, or the opportunity to go out and get them. Equally, there were videos of desperate NHS staff, finishing their shifts only to be greeted with empty shelves at the supermarkets. Due to our existing networks we were able to mobilise quickly. We could help those who needed it most, when they needed it.”

In the last three weeks the TRJFP’s army of volunteers has delivered over 800 isolation packs. All made up of food and other essentials to those in isolation in Wakefield and Leeds (634 Wakefield, 173 Leeds). In the same time period, 303 food parcels have been provided free-of-charge to NHS staff in Leeds and Wakefield.

Its support for the NHS has continued with the supply of food to those feeding the NHS staff. TRJFP has provided food to the team at Wakefield Street Kitchen. They have been making and delivering meals to 130 staff at Pinderfields Hospital and 20 homeless people every day for the last three weeks. The charity has also supplied food to My Thai restaurants in Leeds who are feeding over 1,000 NHS staff every day.

Adam Smith added: “The huge challenge now is getting food to those who are struggling in the community. We are hearing deeply upsetting stories every day of how Coronavirus is tearing families apart and of extreme hardship. People are losing their jobs and unable to afford food. The support services that the vulnerable rely on are being stripped away. We want to help as many people as possible. However the scale of this crisis is growing every day and we only have limited resources which are stretched to the hilt.” 

In the community, 7.5 tonnes of food are being delivered to 31 hubs in Leeds by TRJFP every day. This equates to around 17,000 meals worth of food each day. Hubs include those feeding the most vulnerable in the city. These include St George’s Crypt, New Wortley Community Centre, PAFRAS in Leeds and Bramley Rehabilitation Centre, BARCA.

TRJFP also provides food to a growing number of schools. The charity already supplied food to 19 schools in West Yorkshire. Over the Easter holiday seven of those schools are still open in Wakefield and four in Leeds. TRJFP is providing food to feed around 600 children each day with lunch grab bags and giving food to vulnerable families. In Leeds, smaller numbers of children are in school but TRJFP is feeding around 400 children and families a day with lunch bags and food distribution.

The charity is also actively joining up the food redistribution networks. This ensures small community groups or organisations, not already part of a co-ordinated hub, can be connected to food via TRJFP. This is already happening in Leeds, is in the process of being set up in Calderdale and will follow in Wakefield.

Food has been donated from a range of suppliers, caterers and retailers. Donations include 750,000 eggs from YPO, 21.6 tonnes of milk from McDonalds via Arla and 360 Easter eggs from Wilko. Donations have also been received from Greggs, Subway, KFC, Burger King, Fridays, Seabrooks crisps, Bundobust Leeds, Martin Brower, Dimple Well Lodge Hotel Ossett, Hotel St Pierre Wakefield, Cannasa botanical drinks, Iceland, Muller, The Stanley Pub, Morrison’s Wetherby, Morrison’s Elland, Meadow Foods, Whitbread and more.

Adam Smith added: “The support we’ve had from the food industry has been amazing. We have a dedicated team of volunteers who make all of this happen. Sometimes I’m amazed at how we keep going, but we do.

“However, we need funds to keep going. We’ve received no council or Government funding to carry out this essential work. We are stretched to the max. The costs associated with managing this effort and transporting the food to where it is needed – labour, fuel, transport – are massive. Our waste collection costs alone have sky-rocketed because the more food we accept, the more packaging waste is created. If anyone can help us with these challenges then please, please get in touch.”

The charity has teamed up with the Too Good To Go app to sell boxes of produce for £10. This will help fund some of its work and prevent food going to waste. So far, in Leeds 845 Too Good To Go boxes were collected and 1,217 in Wakefield. This equates to 20.6 tonnes of food.

To make a donation to TRJFP’s campaign visit: https://trjfp.com/donate/

To download the Too Good To Go app, and order a ‘magic box’ of food, please visit:https://toogoodtogo.co.uk/