EATS Rosyth tells us how they have adapted to the lock-down and what they have learnt about joined up working in the process
In this blog post, Karen Dorrat tells us how EATS Rosyth has had to adapt its work to the current lock-down. Karen discusses joined up working and how the pandemic has made them have to rethink how to apply the dignity principles, used by food aid organisations across Scotland to ensure good practice.
EATS Rosyth normally run a surplus shopping service and regular community meals with a large volunteer group as well as growing fresh food at the community garden and orchard. As a result of Covid-19 they are now operating a crisis food delivery service, including cooked meals portions and meal kits. To date during the crisis this has included around 700 food parcels.
The Covid-19 crisis has exposed some of the broken food system issues already highlighted by the Scottish Food Coalition’s Good Food Nation campaign, but also the gaps in sharing valuable information between partner organisations. Even with clear guidance on safe ways to protect data we can’t afford delays in charities and community groups working on the ground receiving referrals. We now have a good system operating between ourselves and council teams, our third sector interface and other local organisations we reached out to with our home delivery service. But it was a slow uptake at first despite us now knowing (via media reports) that those first two weeks were the most pressured for food banks.
We experienced a small taste of this during the ‘beast from the east’ a few years ago when at one point (unlike some shops) we had fridges full of milk and shelves full of bread but no clear route to get it to those who needed it most, relying on word of mouth and social media, not enough for some of our elderly users to benefit from. Mapping and networking and stronger partnership working will go a long way in helping maintain dignity in the future so people are not passed from pillar to post or missed out completely.
With the pandemic affecting us all we now have new families in need that haven’t previously been on any ‘support service radar’ and so often the only hope is that some other family member or kind neighbour has helped until they either come forward themselves or someone else recognises an urgent need, often at crisis point. Migrant families, pregnant mums, healthy but isolated elderly people, all with particular problems and circumstances needing a joined up solution. And that was before the families started to lose their income and employment became so fragile.
Food banks and community food groups are carrying on and putting their staff and volunteers into situations where they have to manage the risk around distributing food: a difficult practical and logistical challenge that many feel they have no option but to work out. In fact it has actually led our group to have to quickly move the whole project to bigger premises lent by Fife Council to allow for social distancing.
Dignity involves time and resources to connect with people as individuals and a crisis doesn’t allow for that – while we are urgently trying to coordinate and deliver emergency food parcels at a socially distanced level, how will we find time to deliver an after care service that could help someone pick up the pieces? One approach to promoting dignity may involve providing cash or vouchers rather than food. However, cash based solutions also need to consider the ‘individual’ – is it dignified to have a supermarket voucher pushed through your door because someone knows you can’t afford food? Is it helpful to have free school meals budget arrive in your bank account if you can’t get out to the shops or don’t have any digital access to online shopping? Is the individual receiving money or vouchers in a state of mental health that they can then go and access the help they need? Or is there a missing link in compassion and understanding how an individual has come to be in food insecurity? What part can we play in this as food providers?
Ending food banks and increasing income cannot happen instantaneously so how do we transition with dignity? If services, like we have had to do at the hub, shut the door physically, how do we help those who come knocking the very same day?
EATS Rosyth have just been successful in applying for Scottish Government Supporting Communities funding which has enabled them to deliver their service over a wider geographical area and expand their support to meet needs other than food. Now we must find dignified ways of reaching and helping those in most need.