Social Bite helps RBS get essential items to desperate families during coronavirus crisis
FOOD and other goods being donated by businesses to the RBS foodbank distribution centre at its Gogarburn headquarters will be directed by food poverty charities to individuals and families in desperate need.
The Evening News is backing the bank’s initiative to collect non-perishable food and hygiene products like loo rolls so Social Bite and the Trussell Trust can help ensure some of the most vulnerable people in Edinburgh and across Scotland are not left without essentials.
RBS hopes firms will donate food stocks which are not being used because workplaces are closed due to coronavirus.
Social Bite founder Josh Littlejohn said items given to his charity would be channelled to meet the needs of people who would otherwise go without, thanks to a network of grassroots groups which has grown up since the virus crisis began.
Social Bite normally runs a network of social enterprise cafes – two in the Capital, two in Glasgow and one in Aberdeen – as well as a corporate catering business.
“That all came crashing to a grinding halt the day Boris Johnson announced no-one could go to cafes and restaurants,” he said.
“Our business model was thrown into great uncertainty and we needed to think about how we were going to respond to the crisis.
“We deal with large numbers of homeless people every day - we normally have homeless people coming into our shops to get free food on a daily basis – and we were very aware they were probably going to be the hardest hit out of this because they don’t have a home to self-isolate in and they certainly can’t stock up their cupboards with food.
“Then we thought, it’s not just going to be homeless people, there are going to be other people too - whether it’s families who are reliant on free school meals or thousands of hourly-paid workers who are suddenly going to be unemployed and will find themselves in food problems. There was going to be a lot of desperation out there.
So we decided to re-purpose the whole business to produce food packs and we’ve been doing that for a week now.”
He said the charity was now making and sending out 3,500 food packs for vulnerable people every day – a sandwich, a piece of fruit, packet of crisps and a drink.
“We’ve got partnerships with about 50 charities and local community groups, who are placing orders with us on a daily basis.”
But Mr Littlejohn believes demand is going to increase as the crisis develops. “We just think its going to go up and up and up.”
In addition to the food packs, he said they would now use the grassroots groups to distribute other items people were needing.
“Because we have this network they can give us a list of things people need and we can get that sorted and get them out to people. Key items are non perishable foods, hygiene products, nappies.
“If businesses are able to donate these kind of things, RBS are going to process those and pass them on to us.
“One of the good things I hope is emerging from this is the sens of community spirit which seems to be around. Hopefully can be harnessed to support those who are vulnerable.”
Members of the public cannot make donations at the RBS centre due to social distancing rules. Instead they are being urged to give items to existing foodbank collection points in supermarkets.
Social Bite has a JustGiving page here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/joshua-littlejohn
And donations can be made to the Trussell Trust here: https://www.trusselltrust.org/get-involved/ways-to-give/