Notts community pulls together to provide free food for city’s rough sleepers during pandemic – but there’s still work to do

We’ve recently committed to help implement strategies that will improve the organisation and distribution of Nottingham’s free food provision for people who are homeless, following the publication of a commissioned research project.

We commissioned Nottingham Trent University to investigate food provision in Nottingham for those who are homeless or rough sleeping, with particular focus on supply during the Covid-19 pandemic.

On 20th July 2021, the research findings were presented by our CEO Denis Tully to local food providers within the charitable and voluntary sector. The meeting followed the report’s recommendation for communication, organisation and collaboration between all Nottingham’s food providers.

The report shows that alongside the city homelessness preventative strategies, providing free food to rough sleepers can make an important contribution to ending homelessness.

This research project has enabled us to gather perceptions about food provision around Nottingham from both the food providers and the people using the services. Although providers do a great job, there is currently no regularly updated timetable for when food is available in Nottingham that relates to frequent changing circumstances, which means that the people who need it often don’t know the times or location where food is provided. The report also showed that some people had gone a significant amount of time without food. We’re urging providers to work together to continue providing access to free, nutritious food for some of Nottingham’s most vulnerable citizens.

Denis Tully, CEO at Emmanuel House

Covid-19 response

The report found that whilst some food providers were forced to close due to lack of resources during the Covid pandemic, many new providers set up projects in direct response to the unprecedented crisis, with many pop-up kitchens opening across the city.

“The third sector is heavily relied upon in times of extreme crisis. The Covid-19 pandemic has seen more people in need of these services, but also more people who are willing to donate, whether that’s time, money, or resources. The research shows that food providers can play an important role in helping people who are rough sleeping to engage with services, but that more support for providers would be helpful and that there is a need for the sharing of resources and good coordination of provision.”

Denis Tully, CEO at Emmanuel House

Importance of nutritious food for vulnerable people

We’re also encouraging food providers to ensure nutrition is of paramount importance when cooking for beneficiaries.

There is a clear demand for access to nutritional and substantial meals. Indeed the report found that some beneficiaries had highlighted a desire for more fruit and vegetables. Our experience of providing support for peole who are homless over the pandemic confirms our belief that the type of food provided makes a difference to beneficiaries’ health and mental wellbeing, which was shown to be an important contributory factor in helping people improve their health and wellbeing.

Denis Tully, CEO at Emmanuel House

“This report clearly shows the need to put time into creating a regularly updated and accessible food provision timetable for rough sleepers. It also demonstrates the benefits for beneficiaries, food providers and the community if we work together in a more strategic and coordinated way. At Transforming Notts Together, we are willing to apply for funding to help create and coordinate this. It is something that fits in well with our current work and experience and we are keen to work with all the food providers and other partners to make this happen.”

Hannah Buck, Lead Development Worker at Transforming Notts Together