Christmas 2021

One of the things about volunteering and providing food help is that as time goes on, it gets busier and harder to remember to take photos or provide updates and make blog posts. We self run our website, so we ask everyone for understanding from donors to benefactors if we do not immediately share images of what has been donated or if we do not have pictures.

The picture above shows the donation of foods from Lidl Luton Mall on Christmas eve. Our volunteers drove a total of 132 miles from 8pm through till 1am delivering the fresh, frozen and dry foods including Christmas treats to families all over Luton.

Finally, we are advancing into the new normal, most of us are back in our jobs on a face to face basis, Our activities are now reduced to evenings and weekends.

In this last year, we have fielded many calls about our services and questions about whether we are operating as a business. We would like to reassure everyone that we remain a non profit group. For those who have asked why we advanced a fee paying model in 2021, this model was structured around Fareshare’s food pantry membership scheme.

Contrary to popular views, Fareshare is only able to continue to provide food surplus in a sustainable way by effecting a fee per kg of foods which covers the cost of storing and transporting the foods to us if need be from the nearest depot. During the lockdown and until the end of August 2020, Fareshare graciously supplied us with the food box contents, food box packaging, fresh and frozen foods and enabled us a carte blanche take as you will access to their MK facility on the basis that we were a very small volunteer led group reaching those that other services could not service or had forgotten. Their donations were supplemented by the goodwill of several traders in Bury park, Marsh farm, and other areas of Luton.

By August 2020, Fareshare sought to enable our continued support by offering us an opportunity to serve Lutonian’s through a food bank membership scheme which they had successfully implemented at a cost of £20 a month providing 1-2 food pick ups in a fixed location. The alternative was for us to pay a fee per kg of food supplied to us.

We considered the socioeconomic disparities that affect our beneficiaries as well as other inclusion factors and given the nature of our group, we decided against seeking a premises at cost to deliver this service. Rather, we worked with Fareshare to adapt the model to enable food deliveries once a week for the same fee they charge of £3 a week and another model to enable cooked meals which could only be sustained at a cost of £15 a week for 20 cooked packed meals. We triaged this service for 6 months from September 2020 until March 2021, drawing the cooked meals plan to a close then as a result of abuses by service users and scrapping the food supplies model as we found it unsustainable, requiring more manpower and hours than we could all pool away from our daily jobs and home responsibilities.

Since March 2020, Our cook has opened her home and kitchen and borne the energy and utility costs including equipment costs for facilitating cooked meals and all our volunteers each driving an average of 20-50 miles a day at the peak of the pandemic all did so without effecting any recovery for fuel, vehicle wear and tear or repair. Income through grants has funded food supplies outside of donations, food containers, safety gear and small sundries necessary to operate legally and ensure that we deliver food to you in good condition.

As we migrate to a less hectic model of service delivery, we remain receptive to referrals from agencies who find themselves stuck with where to refer those who need it the most and open to those who have used our services in the past should you need help again. Going forward, to prevent abuse, the code for free help to enable a self or agency referral can only be acquired by emailing us or phoning us. Wishing you all the best of the festive season.

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