An emergency food hub that started making and delivering free meals to people all over the city during lockdown is still very much in demand.
And with the cost of living crisis set to plunge even more people into food poverty, the people at the East Brighton Food Co-operative (EBFC) has called on the city council for help.
Bryan Coyle is the CEO and founder of the EBFC and started the meal delivery service when lockdown hit in 2020. Soon the demand rocketed and thanks to a team of volunteers, a staggering 305 meals a day were being cooked and delivered at its peak.
Bryan said the team is still cooking and delivering to 81 people and gets regular referrals from the NHS and the council.
But Bryan has now warned: “EBFC cannot sustain the meal delivery service without adequate funding from the council. They keep referring people for our meals. This is too important to leave to unpaid volunteers.”
EBFC said it had sent a report to all Brighton and Hove councillors, which includes recommendations and the results of a survey the group undertook. The survey found 37 per cent of the group’s meal recipients would suffer from hunger and 58 per cent felt their health would suffer detrimentally without the delivered meal service.
Bryan added: “EBFC are calling for the local NHS and council departments (adult social care, mental health team, housing, pensioners) to sit down to make and endorse a long-term strategic plan to ensure the most vulnerable residents of our city are not left to die of malnutrition behind closed doors.
“The local NHS PCN (Primary Care Network) is already on-board awarding the EBFC a £30,000 per annum salary to continue our pioneering work. We need BHCC to join us and allocate more funding and planning to this essential meal service.”
Bryan said the group has been lucky to get much of its food through donations but equipment, containers and lease costs have meant they have had to introduce a monthly fee to customers.
The group has applied for grants and believes it should get some money from the national Household Support Fund but Bryan said he hopes the council will offer more long-term support.
A council spokesperson said: “We understand very clearly the importance of the East Brighton Food Collective’s meal delivery service for so many people in our city.
“We value the work they and other organisations do providing emergency food across the city, and we welcome their report. ‘Our teams are working hard to maximise the funding opportunities available for these organisations from central government.
"There will definitely be funding for EBFC though the current round of the national Household Support Fund. But unfortunately we aren’t currently in a position to confirm how much.”