Due to no longer being able to visit the Rhubarb Farm and Waste Not Café to take portraits, I had to rethink my project. However, I didn't want to leave behind all the research and issues I had found, as they remain very important and some situations worsened because of the pandemic. By focusing on the same issues I came up with some questions at the beginning of term 3 to ask myself and the seminar group.
SHOULD I CONTINUE RESEARCH INTO CURRENT TOPICS E.G. FOOD BANKS, SOCIAL ISSUES, UNEMPLOYMENT (IN RELATION TO FOOD CULTURE) BUT LOOK TOWARDS THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON THOSE ISSUES? FOR EXAMPLE:
• Support for food banks, less or extra support during these times
• Food support for key workers e.g. NHS workers – is this the right thing to do?
• Food waste – impact of panic buying/stock piling
• Social isolation – people are increasingly lonely during this time, what efforts are being made to prevent loneliness?
• Rhubarb Farm – how are volunteers coping without social interaction and work?
• Waste Not Café - what are they doing to adapt to the situation?
SHOULD I BE CONDUCTING ONLINE INTERVIEWS VIA VIDEO CALL OR MESSAGING? WHAT SHOULD I BE ASKING?
• Still in contact with Waste Not Café - meals are taking place online via Zoom to provide interaction for those who are lonely (everyone eats together and talks)
• Rhubarb Farm still opens small farm shop to sell fresh produce
• Noticed certain opinions made on social media around food banks – should I approach these people so they can develop thoughts further?
CASE STUDY ON FOOD AT LOCAL HOSPITAL?
• Multiple free food deliveries each day e.g. Indian takeaway, Dominos pizza, Easter eggs, cupcakes, cookies, fizzy drinks, crisps, apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, macaroons, fish and chips, pub food, soup, biscuits, tea bags, coffee, bottled water, sweets, loaves of bread, Costa iced coffees, Costa sandwiches, pub snacks
• Each member of hospital staff, since the pandemic, has been provided with a £6 per day food spending allowance whilst on shift. Within the first 6 days of this in place the hospital spent £25,000 just on food for staff. The data only listed 1 banana being purchased within the first 6 days, most of the food items were Cornish pasties, chips and warm sandwiches – should there be concern for the health of NHS workers and money better spent elsewhere?
• Seems unfair that employed people are being provided with an excessive and unnecessary amount of food when there are people suffering in food poverty, and food banks are under more pressure than normal due to COVID-19 circumstances.
IMPORTANT NEWS ARTICLES IN RELATION TO TOPICS OF INTEREST AND COVID-19 AT THE BEGINNING OF LOCKDOWN:
• Worldwide problem with produce being wasted because of food businesses closing
• Indian farmers are feeding their cows strawberries, because they can’t take them to the fruit market to be sold
• In Peru, tonnes of white cocoa is being dumped straight into landfill because the hotels and restaurants that normally buy it are closed
• Farmers in the US and Canada are having to pour milk away because they can't sell it quick enough as there are less businesses operating as normal.
• In the UK furloughed workers are concerned about feeding their children during the pandemic as they are losing 20% of their normal wage and free school meals are uncertain
• Since social-distancing began, Wales have seen an increase in demand for food banks
• Volunteer numbers at food banks are decreasing due to illness and self-isolation
• People have to be referred to food banks, but during the pandemic people have just been turning up as they are so desperate for help.
• Hubbub (environmental charity) survey showed that shopping and eating behaviours have changed since lockdown, there's an increase in family meals and online socialisation
• People are eating smaller portions and ignoring best before dates where it is safe to do so
• There's an increasing amount of people worried about food and struggling to put food on the table, and turning to food banks for the first time
• 57% of people admit to valuing food more now
• 48% are throwing away less food now, and only 5% are actually throwing away more food
• Recent report from the Food Foundation shows 3 million people have gone full days without meals since lockdown
• Bin men were seeing an increased amount of food waste overflowing household bins.
→ EMERGENCY FOOD PARCELS FOR THOSE WHO ARE SHIELDING
• Includes toilet roll, bread, fruit, vegetables, tinned foods, biscuits, pasta
• 50,000 parcels being delivered in first set
• Parcels are for vulnerable people self-isolating for 12 weeks, with no friends or family to help provide food
• Operation like this hasn’t been required since WWII
• Why are people receiving parcels that aren't expecting them or need them? Many are being sent to the food bank as a result.
→ PREVENTING LONELINESS
• #LetsTalkLoneliness public campaign
• Age UK are supported by NHS Volunteer Responders in local communities
• NHS Volunteer Responders include ‘check-in and chat’ roles to prevent loneliness of the elderly and vulnerable
• Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced that loneliness is to be a priority category of £750 million charity funding package
• Guaranteed £5 million boost for national loneliness organisations
PERSONAL RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS/RESEARCH:
It is clear that the impact of COVID-19 is hard hitting for some, especially in terms of food poverty. Food banks are essential to the survival of many people, however during this pandemic the service is increasingly required. The government's food parcels are vital to those shielding due to health vulnerability and not having the ability to get food themselves or having others to rely on to do this. However the government still aren't making efforts to help those in food poverty, again this was left to the charity organisation The Trussell Trust, and the generosity of the public. A flaw within the government's food parcel service results in individuals receiving parcels that don't require them. In my local town's Facebook forum page, there have been multiple occasions where food parcels were received and unwanted, luckily these were taken to the nearest food bank.
The free food donations to hospitals for NHS staff made me feel quite uncomfortable, it didn't feel right that employed staff whose jobs weren't put at risk or furloughed were receiving so much free food each day. It is understandable that NHS workers are deserving of a reward for their hard work, but in a society where people are going hungry and even more so because of job losses and pay cuts, it doesn't seem fair. NHS workers also receive extra discount from food and clothing shops. The majority of the donated food would have gone to waste if it wasn't taken to the hospital, as it was from closed businesses such as cafes, restaurants and hotels. In terms of reducing food waste it was a great idea to help the environment and reduce landfill wastage. However, I can't help but to think that this food could have been put to better use and the non-perishable goods could have been taken to a local food bank. In terms of perishable foods, a 'give-out' could have been arranged and advertised on social media for people to make the most of the free food if they require it.
I remain in close contact with the Waste Not Café, as I'm keen to return whenever that may be. Currently the monthly events are online via Zoom, however these aren't very popular. After attending the AGM on Zoom, I gained further insight into the success of the organisation since opening in October 2019. The FareShare subscription for the year is £650, which provides the cafe with 12 large deliveries (all of which the food is surplus from supermarkets). To start up they required funding from the council, they received £500 from Derbyshire County Council and also got a £900 grant from the Chesterfield Health and Wellbeing Board. The success of the events has seen the cafe cooking for 500 people up to date, resulting in around £1,300 being made per event in entry tickets. £400 of profits have so far been donated to the Chesterfield food bank. Without COVID-19 the income forecast would have been £10,000 for the cafe's first year. The organisation will be a great source of funding for the food banks in Chesterfield when it can be fully up and running again.
It is obvious that my passion and interests still lay with the issue of food poverty and the use of food banks. Although the photography content will have to completely change and be made from home, the research and knowledge will remain important and develop further as a new hurdle has arisen for the food poverty crisis.
Read my next blog post to find out more on the adapted project!