THOUSANDS of people who have relied on food parcels from the Government during the coronavirus lockdown will instead be supported by the city council from Saturday (1 August).
People in Leicester and the wider Leicester area who are classed as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ are being advised to continue to shield until at least 17 August – which means there are still many families who need help getting food and other essential supplies.
But with the national shielding programme coming to an end on Friday (31 July), the city council is set to be the first local authority in the country to step in to make sure that those in most need continue to get help and support.
City council staff are now contacting around 19,000 people in the city and the county to find out what support they need – and to make sure that no one goes hungry or struggles to pick up essential prescriptions.
All those in the area who have been receiving a food box from the Government during lockdown – around 2,000 in total – will be getting a weekly food parcel from the city council from now on, if they still need one.
City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “While restrictions have been eased elsewhere in the country, the advice to anyone in the Leicester area who’s clinically extremely vulnerable remains to stay at home as much as possible and shield yourself from the coronavirus.
“Since lockdown started in March, we’ve tried to make sure that no one went hungry or slipped through the net because they weren’t on an official list, and I’m very proud that we’ve been able to support local families and vulnerable individuals with more than 10,000 food parcels over the last four months.
“This next phase of our emergency food and support scheme will see us helping around 14,000 clinically extremely vulnerable people in Leicester.
“And, thanks to the infrastructure and resources we put in place at the start of lockdown, we’re also able to support around 5,000 vulnerable people in the wider Leicester area who have also been advised to continue to shield.
“This support will be there for anyone who needs it, until the Government changes its advice for those medically shielding in our area.”
Support offered by the council could include regular phone calls to those feeling isolated and lonely at home, help picking up prescriptions, or help securing supermarket delivery slots. But anyone with no other means of getting food and essential supplies will get a weekly parcel, delivered to their home – free of charge.
Each food parcel contains basics like bread and milk, breakfast cereal and eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables, tinned beans and pulses, and pasta or rice. Contents can be modified to suit gluten-free, diabetic, vegetarian or vegan diets.
Essentials like teabags, squash, toilet roll, toothpaste, sanitary products and shower gel are also included every other week, as well as cleaning products and washing-up liquid.
Ambient ready meals, which don’t need refrigeration and can simply be microwaved, are added to the parcels too.
Once packed, the food parcels are delivered to addresses across the city by drivers from the city council’s own passenger transport team – staff who would normally be driving children to school.
In total, around 30 city council staff have been redeployed from their usual duties to run the emergency food service, with another 27 staff driving the vans and delivering the food parcels, and 20 more providing help and support on the phone.
Since the start of lockdown, the city council has spent £823,000 on emergency food and supplies.
As well as the food delivery service, the city council’s emergency food provision also includes extra funding and food supplies for its city centre foodbank, support for a network of community foodbanks across Leicester, alternative food provision for children who normally have a free school meal, and hot food for homeless people now living in temporary accommodation.
The Government allocated £4.2m of hardship funding to the city council, which is being used to give additional council tax support to low income households, assist those facing financial hardship – including help with fuel costs – and support the emergency food provision during the coronavirus crisis.
The city council’s dedicated crisis support email address - C19support@leicester.gov.uk - can be used by anyone who’s worried about having enough food, suffering financial hardship or even if they’re feeling lonely and isolated, whether they’re shielding or not.
Anyone worried about a vulnerable or elderly neighbour can also use the email address to get help for them.
People in Leicester and the wider Leicester area who are clinically extremely vulnerable, and who may have received a text from the NHS Coronavirus Service about changes to their support, can find more information the council's coronavirus advice webpages.