DURING these unprecedented and hugely challenging times, food poverty is one of the most devastating effects of Covid-19 lockdown, Nick Mosley writes.

Families are struggling, especially those with younger children, but single parents are believed to be particularly vulnerable. With schools closed many are unable to work and without childcare, essential food shopping has become a minefield.

Many of the city’s older residents are going without meals; afraid to leave their homes due to government isolation advice and having to stand in long social-distancing queues can be a real challenge for the elderly.

One community group in Brighton has decided to rise to the challenge and tackle food poverty in their neighbourhood head on. Darren Snow MBE has set up the East Brighton COVID-19 Support Fund to support East Brighton’s Whitehawk, Manor Farm and Bristol Estates.

Darren is co-founder of The Crew Club based in Whitehawk, a neighbourhood that is one of the 10 per cent most deprived communities in the UK.

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The Club offers a huge and diverse number of free services and activities for all age groups; these include after-school activities and homework groups, cooking lessons, sports, a mother-and-baby group plus coffee mornings for the over 55s.

The Club also offers healthy snacks and hot meals with food from FareShare.

When Covid-19 lockdown occurred back in March, the Crew Club was forced to close its doors, leaving a massive gap in the local offering.

Darren realised that something had to be done to help an already struggling community and had a conversation with local resident Bryan Coyle who is a champion of reducing community health inequalities. Together they decided to set up an emergency service to provide much needed food and support to their local community.

Darren formed the East Brighton Covid-19 Support Fund and began fundraising.

To date, The Crew Club has managed to raise over £10,000 with many donations coming from individuals and larger donations from East Brighton Trust and the Nesta innovation fund which provided the main source of funding for the East Brighton Food Co-Operative set up by Bryan.

These funds directly help the most vulnerable, those most at risk of not getting food supplies or day-to-day essentials in order to stay safe and healthy.

The funds helped them set up a kitchen in early March at the Bristol Estate Community Room but there was such high demand they went on to create a second kitchen in the Robert Lodge Community Room in Whitehawk.

Both kitchens now provide fresh, nutritious hot daily meals, delivered safely to the most vulnerable by an incredible group of local volunteers. Freshly prepared hot meals are currently running at 1000 per week and this is predicted to increase further.

In the Robert Lodge kitchen alone, around 100 hot meals are made each day, seven days a week, by a dedicated team headed up by Chef Jason Hanmer-Delve, who is originally from Whitehawk.

The orders are placed on an ordering line run by local councillor Gill Williams.

Food parcels of vital shopping are also delivered to those in most need – whether the elderly or single mothers – with over 100 arts and crafts packs delivered to families with young children who have no outdoor space.

Darren Snow told us: “Working with Bryan is an honour. He is driven through pure passion to support those in need, an attribute that fits very well with me and the Crew Club’s principles”.

Bryan Coyle said “The East Brighton Food Co-op was set up to highlight the lack of access to healthy food in this part of the city and the effect this has on the health inequality people face here.

"When this is all over we will be working and campaigning harder than ever to bring community food making, celebration and eating to our local area. We will work to put in place the infrastructure needed to make sure the people who live here can enjoy cooking and eating healthy food”.

This collaborative project has managed to achieve much in such a short space of time and is a testament to community goodwill during the lockdown, but more funds are desperately needed in order to keep the service going.