The National Food Service (NFS) is directly working with organisations, communities and individuals across the country to eradicate food insecurity and tackle the social isolation and food waste, which is directly interconnected with food poverty.
The NFS started in 2018 in the face of the climate emergency declaration and is currently responding to the coronavirus crisis, when more than three million people across the UK risk going hungry.
Louise Demelge, who works with the organisation, says that they have hugely increased the number of meals coming through their system, which is delivering food seven days a week.
A national network, the NFS have branches in different areas to respond to local requests. People in Bristol can call the city’s branch to request food, who will either provide food using the organisation’s volunteers, or refer people to the Plough Inn or ACORN, depending on their needs.
NFS are working with local kitchens such as Thali, Coexist and Cafe Kino to deliver meals, which all deliver to the NFS regularly. The rest of the food supplied by the organisation is cooked in the NFS’ kitchens at Lockleaze Sports Centre and Baggator.
“There’s a functioning ecosystem in the city of food surplus,” explains Louise. “When one project has too much of something, they offer it round, and when we have too much of something, we offer it back in return.
“Sometimes this means the same bag of spuds goes around a few times, but eventually everything that can be used is used”.
Louise highlights the great work being down in the BS5 area, saying: “It’s humbling to be a part of that network. Sometimes the best way to support a local community to grow is to step back and let the groups already active in the area take the lead.”
One of the main issues NFS face is not being able to provide people with help they need.
“We do food, we can’t help people with money, we can’t help people access medical care, or get supplies for their baby, or sanitary products for their teenage children,” Louise says. “It’s heartbreaking to know that there’s still many people being betrayed by a state that’s turning away from its citizens in a time of greatest need.”
Since lockdown, there has been a sharp rise of people using the NFS, with Louise saying: “There are many people out there with insecure and casual employment who’ve fallen through the gaps in the inadequate state support.”
But she affirms that the NFS doesn’t ask people how they came to be in need of food: “We’re not here to pry into people’s lives. No one has to prove to us that they’re in need, no one has to beg.
“We’re here because we all need care at some point in our lives. When we can give, we give, when we need we deserve to have.
Louise says: “This crisis has strengthened the NFS network no end.
“We’re pulling together to support one another across the UK and linking up to work with other organisations all the time. A new public service is growing.
“It’s not coming top down from the government, it’s being built by the people who need it, us.”
Find out more, access help and volunteer at www.nationalfoodservice.uk
Main photo: NFS