The Worthing Food Foundation was borne out of the experience of the local Covid-19 mutual aid groups. We began supplying food to people in need at the beginning of April 2020. The mutual aid groups had discovered that a lot of people simply had no access to the food they needed. The failure of the school meals voucher system and the eight-week wait for Universal Credit, at that time, had plunged a lot of people into crisis. Added to that the large number of people being put on furlough or made redundant, and the situation was desperate for many. After speaking with many people, from those in need to other food banks and referral agencies, it was decided to set up a non-referral food operation that would supply seven days’ worth of dry, tinned and fresh food, as well as other essentials to people in need.
People can self-refer but other agencies such as the Council, the CAB, schools etc., can and do refer people to us. The only requirement to receive food is that you are hungry. This has become the model that we continued with even as things have become more normalised. We believe that our approach removes a lot of the stigma that surrounds foodbank use. It also maintains dignity and, in the long run, allows us to build relationships that can then be used to steer people towards other help that they may require. We have developed a pathway that, in partnership with other agencies, helps people break their reliance on food projects such as ours. We aim to create a (food) safe and secure space where people have the time to seek and implement changes.
The local Baptist church kindly gave us premises. Volunteers from the local community came forward to offer their help. We set up a crowd funder and began to receive donations twice a week at the church. Local supermarkets helped out, both with donations and allowing us to set up collection points in stores. We set up an account with FairShare. Subsequently, local businesses have risen to the challenge with money, goods and services. In order to reach those people who needed us most, we went down the usual social media route but we also leafleted target areas and made ourselves available through the welfare officers at local schools. We have begun to work with groups of rehoused ex-street homeless people. We have rented storage facilities and had a vehicle generously donated.
We currently have some 100 volunteers working with us. We are lucky to be supported by our parent charity The Les Alden Foundation (Charity No. 1190114).