Table 1

Summary of informal conversations on emergency food provision during the first month of containment measures during COVID-19 in Southeast, England, UK

COVID-19 impact on the team/organisationMain concerns regarding food provisionPositives/useful learningsFuture implications
Case 1
Community hub—an informal local volunteer group with the aim of supporting residents through the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Repurpose of service (from environmental cause to food collection, delivery and preparation).

  • Increased numbers and engagement.

  • Elderly people/people with health conditions unable to get food/ prescriptions (isolation combined with limited transport, access to technology or limited technology literacy).

  • Elderly overwhelmed by changes and media reports.

  • Hidden poverty.

  • Increased interest in local food suppliers.

  • Increased value on community engagement.

  • Increased community generosity.

  • Unsuitability of internet-based services to some groups.

  • Susceptibility to financial hardships.

  • Communities may continue using and supporting local suppliers/ services.

  • To take advantage of community networks to plan service provision.

Case 2
A, non-profit, food partnership
  • Repurpose funders’ resources.

  • Additional funding.

  • Online meetings.

  • Increased demand.

  • Background of food insecurity coupled with increase in demand.

  • Current emergency food solutions not sustainable (global and local economy recession and increased dependability on government’s resources).

  • Local suppliers disproportionally unsupported and affected compared with big retailers.

  • Brexit impact on food supply and food prices.

  • Solutions for food resilience and poverty are entwined to climate change solutions.

Media exposure of the fragility of current food supply chains.
  • Increased interest/use of local suppliers.

  • Increased value attributed to food suppliers/workers.

  • To build on changes and willingness to change and to develop new models for more resilient local food systems.

  • To continue adapting.

Case 3
Third sector elderly support services registered nutritionist
  • Support on how to eat with minimal money and equipment.

  • Additional funding from Brighton and Hove Food Partnership/Brighton Housing TrustT and Fareshare redistributed.

  • Increased demand for emergency food provision via loss of income coupled with government payment delays.

  • Increased food insecurity and anxiety in accessing foods, restricted amounts and variety.

  • Food insecurity due to increased demand for food delivery along with insufficient offer or awareness of alternative options and limited cooking skills.

  • Implications of food insecurity for those with comorbidities (eg, patients with diabetic).

  • Increased awareness of local suppliers/food schemes.

  • Increased value in buying local/seasonal; food storage/waste.

  • Elderly adapted to new technologies.

  • Learning that adapting and changing are possible.

  • Social isolation has put more elderly at risk of malnutrition.

  • Sustainability of current emergency help (eg, NHS volunteer scheme)

Case 4
An established Urban Food Bank, which provides redistributes food donations to those in need to emergency food parcels.
  • The repurpose of services (eg, face to face to delivery, only monetary rather than physical donations) and resources.

  • A reduced workforce.

  • Changed location due to reports of looting and violence.

  • Increased demand.

  • Secure regular supply of essential items.

  • Secure supply of sanitary and personal hygiene items.

  • Brexit and the impact on food supply and cost.

  • The long-term impact of financial crisis on welfare systems and food banks.

  • Finding alternatives for service delivery.

  • The current crisis streamlined the creation of a supportive network of local food banks.

  • Increased organisation-wide communication and collaboration.

  • Community and volunteers support.

  • A review of changes needed in the long term.

  • Continued volunteers support.

  • Increased food banks resilience to address job losses and crisis in welfare systems.

Case 5
Oncology Food Bank. A new service established by oncology dietitians to meet the specific needs of patients attending for cancer treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A repurpose of service and resources. Fare Share donations previously used in the café/and public donations made to staff now directed to patients.

  • A wide variety of donations allowed to meet dietary needs (eg, gluten free/dairy free).

  • Misconceptions around food requirements for oncology patients.

  • Delays in government food parcels.

  • Suitability of government food parcels to patients’ needs.

  • Big retailers insufficient offer of delivery services and limited technical support for patients.

  • Patients’ difficulties in relying on others. finding suitable alternatives for missing products and rapid changes in food preferences.

  • Patients’ longer waits for transport and reduced time for food preparation.

  • Patients’ rehousing and limited cooking facilities.

  • Patients’ pride in admitting struggles.

  • Dietitians screening for food insecurity and redirecting patients to appropriate agencies.

  • The oncology food bank can give food parcels appropriate to patients needs and preferences.

  • To have a stock of food to use in starter packs over the long term.

  • To continue better connecting patients to appropriate agencies.

  • To continue partnering with food surplus redistribution services for increased sustainability.

  • The need for better screening.

  • To encourage other centres to have a café which can also help stock a food bank and to provide emergency meal provision.

  • To identify other vulnerable groups who might benefit from a similar scheme.