Edinburgh charity will produce and distribute 3000 food and essentials packs five days per week across Scotland
Earlier this week the social-enterprise, which supports homeless people across Scotland, was forced to close its five food services and says that it is facing an “uncertain future” due to the ongoing health crisis.
However, through funding received from the Scottish Government, the organisation will reopen its cafes, restaurants, and shops tomorrow, March 20, as a free emergency food service.
Employees will produce and distribute 3000 food and essentials packs five days per week to those most in need across Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Glasgow.
Founder of Social Bite Josh Littlejohn MBE said: “Our kitchens, cafes, and teams will be entirely re-deployed to produce and deliver food and supplies to those who need them most for the duration of this outbreak.”
He added: “Like with every hospitality business all over the world the coronavirus outbreak has put Social Bite’s future into great uncertainty. All of our cafes, as well as our corporate catering business, have been forced to close during the outbreak.
“We thought long and hard about how to respond to this to best help these people in desperate need, whilst trying to minimise staff redundancies and protect the future of Social Bite.”
The charity will work with partners throughout Scotland to ensure that essential supplies can reach the homeless as well as families that were relying on free school meals and those who have been made redundant due to the crisis and are in food poverty.
Josh said this service is essential as it will be homeless people and other vulnerable individuals who will be most affected by the health crisis.
He said: “Imagine being homeless, having no option to self-isolate or stock up on supplies, with many support services you were relying on closing down.
“Alongside homeless people, there will be thousands of more people who end up in food poverty, families who were relying on free school meals who no longer have access and those who have just been made redundant with no immediate access to benefits. The homeless and vulnerable people we support on a daily basis will be the worst affected by this crisis.”
Cabinet Secretary for communities and local government Aileen Campbell confirmed that the Scottish Government will support Social Bite in their efforts to protect Scotland’s most vulnerable.
She said: “I am pleased to confirm today that we will be working in partnership with Social Bite to enable free food and essential supplies to be delivered to organisations working with those in need across Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen.
“We have made £500,000 available for this initiative which will provide up to 3000 meals daily. This will be up and running by Friday. This is an example of organisations stepping up when society needs them and we will support them to do so.”
From today people who cannot access food will be able to pick up a food pack from Social Bite’s services in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen between 2pm and 4pm.
However, concerns have been raised about how safe it will be for large groups to congregate to receive the food parcels. In response to these worries, Social Bite will work with local services in the three cities to deliver food safely to people’s homes, this will be rolled out over the coming weeks.
There has been growing concern across the country about homeless people’s inability to self isolate during the pandemic.
In Glasgow, two people tested positive for coronavirus at a homeless winter night shelter. It was confirmed by Glasgow City Mission on Wednesday afternoon that a member of staff and guests of the centre tested positive for the virus.
The service has been told by the Scottish Government to close with immediate effect and the venue will fully close later today.
A written statement from the charity said: “We have been informed that one of our guests and one of our staff have been tested positive for the virus. We have taken the necessary steps to protect our other guests and staff at this difficult time.
“The COVID-19 crisis has reinforced to us at Glasgow City Mission that shelters are not an appropriate accommodation solution during a pandemic.
“To continue to allow mass sleeping in the face of advice to the contrary is to put vulnerable people at significant intentional risk, while on the face of it keeps many onlookers satisfied that ‘at least they are no out in the cold’. It is, in our minds, a case of out of sight out of mind. We cannot do that in good conscience.”
The statement also said that the entire homelessness sector will have to think about how it will respond to the pandemic.
It read: “Covid-19 is going to change how we think about many things, we trust that it will be a turning point for the way in which we approach the accommodation of all vulnerable people who have sought a safe haven in Scotland.”
The shelter is now working on a new solution that will allow them to provide shelter and hygiene facilities to Scotland’s homeless which will allow them to isolate in a safe and feasible way.