Putting food at the heart of our community

A new surplus food co-ordination and distribution service commissioned by Lambeth council and run by Healthy Living Platform started work this month

Community hubs manager Mala Naicker in the central hub at Brixton Rec with staff and volunteers who help to sort and allocate food to charities every day

As soon as the first lockdown began in March 2020, Lambeth council put into action plans to help vulnerable and shielding residents.

Food parcels were selected and sorted by a core team and 40 volunteers, then delivered by cyclists with trailers, cargo bikes and cars in a fast-paced, manual handling operation.

The council commissioned Healthy Living Platform and Lambeth Food Partnership to deliver the emergency response.

They ensured that a balanced, nutritious food parcel was given to everyone who called the helpline for food.

In each parcel was a 10-day supply of fresh fruit, vegetables, pulses, dairy and some treats. Dietary requirements were also considered on request.

Mala Naicker manages the Lambeth council service’s supplies, three Hubs, logistics and distribution.

She works with the London Food Alliance and its members Fareshare, The Felix Project and City Harvest to identify community hubs and charities that are in great need of food, which is collected from suppliers then distributed to these charities.

“Demand escalated, and we managed to get food swiftly to the ‘hard to reach’ and those who do not readily ask for food, or have language barriers,” she says.

“We also accessed foods to meet the cultural needs of our borough’s diverse communities.

Healthy Living Platform’s aim is to put food at the heart of the community, so that no person goes without a nutritious meal.

It works closely with Lambeth council’s children’s centres and schools, which identified the families who were struggling to access food.

Mala Naicker with staff and the volunteer ‘manpower’ needed to shift a valid of 109 boxes of MOD army ration packs, each weighing 21kilos

Staff have worked long hours tirelessly, delivering food parcels to many family homes.

The Covid19 emergency response based at the Brixton Rec was a challenging but rewarding experience.

Many who took part have left with new skills and a greater understanding of logistics and food distribution. 

In November last year Lambeth council sought bids from the voluntary and community sector for surplus food co-ordination and distribution in the borough.

Healthy Living Platform was awarded the role.

Mala works with community groups to mobilise three hubs – in the central, northern and southern parts of the borough.

Since the tier 4 lockdown in London, which began before Christmas, each week about 2,000 people have received surplus via the community hubs/charities, which is allocated and distributed from the Brixton Rec hub.

Three core members and volunteers who enthusiastically come in every day to have a work out, help to sort, pack and distribute the food.

They say they feel very welcome and it is a friendly environment as the lockdown has made them feel alone and isolated.

Healthy Living Platform will continue to collaborate with charities and identify new community organisations that need food for their members.

Council seeks views on food poverty

Lambeth council is consulting on plans to address food poverty and food insecurity in the borough over the next three years.

The three new hubs are part of these plans.

The Lambeth Food Poverty and Insecurity Action for 2021 – 2024 is designed to build on work already undertaken, and to respond to challenges resulting from Covid-19.

You can comment on the plans via the council website