The Feed: preventing poverty, hunger and homelessness during Covid - and beyond

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The Feed is a not-for-profit social enterprise and charity providing catering services, with a very clear mission to prevent poverty, hunger and homelessness in Norwich.  

The team provides work experience through their café and catering enterprise to people who face barriers to employment, supporting people who have been at risk of homelessness, had mental health problems, addiction issues, an offence history, or other major barriers. Food is a catalyst to motivate change, improve confidence and self-belief and gain the employment skills needed to move forward into a more fulfilling life.  

Since starting up in 2014 The Feed has been operating a range of projects in support of this but, as with many VCSE organisations, Covid has disrupted how services are delivered. Their Bloom project for women looking to learn new skills in a safe environment has, for example, had to be postponed for now but will return. Again, in common with similar organisations, The Feed has adapted how it delivers what it has always done best. 

Working through Covid  

“It’s been a funny old twelve months’ says Lucy Parish, CEO of The Feed, voicing a modest understatement heard from many senior managers in these difficult times.

“We have had to adapt. We’re a social enterprise and rely on self-generated income to fund what we do. Pre-Covid a major part of our business was catering, partly for events and functions, and also at our café on Prince of Wales Road.  Event cancellations from March 2020 triggered a worrying time of course, and we had to close the café. We had to furlough some of the staff team, and at first effectively packed up and went home - but we needed to keep going, to find ways of generating income. During the first lockdown, for example, we were well placed to help Norwich City Council with food parcels for people placed in emergency temporary accommodation, and delivered 4,500 food parcels in that period.   

Face-to-face support has changed too of course, and we now do that digitally and by phone. In fact we’ve been very busy, essentially finding adaptive ways to generate income to run our support projects, including summer projects, along with a Christmas campaign. Our work experience programmes restarted in July and ran until the end of 2020. And our community fridge has been running Monday to Friday, 2.00 to 4.00 from August onwards, throughout all lockdowns!" 

"We have a straightforward but comprehensive business model, centred on generating income to support social impact” explains Lucy. “This has enabled us to adapt the business quickly to be able to maximise our social impact within the operating constraints imposed by Covid.” 

Looking ahead and beyond Covid 

"Although trading has been very limited, we’re forecasting planning ahead for a constructive and positive future. And that plan itself will be adaptable to include Covid-related contingencies and the legacy impact of the pandemic”  says Lucy.

The Feed is hoping to launch a food truck, enabling outreach to extend to outdoor events and festivals when social activities are able to resume across the city and county. Any businesses interested in sponsoring the truck are invited to contact chris@thefeed.org.uk or call 07784 358932.  Donations to The Feed’s work are always welcome here

You can read all about The Feed’s work here.  

This is part of a series of examples of the huge contribution made by local VCSE organisations in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. To understand more about the pivotal role played by Voluntary and Social Enterprise organisations in Norfolk’s Covid-19 response effort please visit our Norfolk VCSE Covid-19 Story page.