Community food delivery in a changed landscape

Posted: 22 February 2021, in News

The Larder had planned 10th birthday festivities throughout 2020 prior to Covid. We wanted to shout from the rooftops about our exceptional students who have such compelling stories to tell about how they changed their lives through learning and food. 

Prior to Covid, 85% of our income came through a network of bustling training cafes, and the delivery of training and employability services. We also responded to food insecurity through the provision of high-quality food in dining experiences.

When lockdown was announced we immediately knew that we had to respond quickly and adapt how we delivered our services. We had to continue to support young people with complex learning needs and provide food to those who would need it. Doing nothing, closing the doors and shutting up shop was never discussed; it was never an option.  

While I sat at my kitchen table, applying for every fund that I could find, my inspirational colleagues hatched a plan to deliver cooked, chilled, ready meals to those most in need. They worked closely with over 50 partners, across all sectors, to ensure that no-one was left without food in West Lothian.

Since April 2020 we’ve delivered 95,000 ready meals and given support to over 100 young people to keep them engaged in learning and look after their well-being. We secured grants to see us through to the end of this financial year, but our biggest challenge is to secure funding for the coming two years until consumer confidence returns for the sectors that we previously thrived in.

While sitting at that kitchen table, I was reassured to hear that governments were talking about ‘building back better’ and ‘No One Left Behind’. The frustration, that we at The Larder have, is that there is inconsistency in delivering these policy intentions at a local level. 

If the third sector is as vital as we have proven ourselves to be over these trying times, governments have to commit to our sustainability. I would call on our sector leaders to ensure that these positive policy intentions are delivered at a local level. There is a disconnect, and I fear that many disadvantaged people will fall through the cracks that will inevitably appear. 

Everyone will have their views on what has to be done to give the Third Sector its rightful place at the table, I would suggest that the following 3 building blocks will make a valuable contribution to this:

Firstly that the relationship with Third Sector national leaders and e.g. COSLA is improved to reduce disconnect at a local level. Secondly we need stronger networking and engagement between local and national Third Sector leaders to support a more integrated strategic role. Also we need significant investment from government to support the sector’s sustainability over the coming two years.

Recognising the role that the sector has to play in the recovery from Covid is not enough – stronger, long term investment is required if we are to truly ensure that we build back stronger and that no-one is left behind.

Angela Moohan, CEO, The Larder Training and Skills Academy