Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon Community Planning Partnership’s Community and Voluntary Sector Panel reveal the results of their Food Initiatives Survey. The panel undertook the survey across the borough in June to learn about the sector’s response to the Covid-19 crisis and to inform the work of the panel over the next 12 months.
Communities acted quickly and creatively to support each other with almost half commencing their food assistance in March. Among the 47 organisations who responded to the survey were residents associations, sport clubs, women’s organisations, foodbanks, youth clubs, charities, faith groups, bands and charities. The actions of these organisations have been swift, impactful and collaborative, and most survey respondents did not provide food assistance before the crisis. Shaped by local knowledge and experience groups were able to identify needs and really got to the heart of the communities who needed support during this time.
During the lockdown period, between them, the organisations indicated that they were providing weekly food parcels to approx. 4400 homes, with 11800 people benefiting each week. The most common criteria for food support were shielding, followed by low income or a change to income.
Responding to the results of the survey Lord Mayor Councillor Kevin Savage commented,
“Community groups have played a vital role during the lockdown, delivering food and medicines, and checking up on elderly and vulnerable people.
I want to thank local community groups for their work over the past few months in assisting Council with the Department for Communities’ Food Box scheme and for all the additional practical, food and social support they have provided.
I know that this support has been a lifeline for many people in the borough and the kindness and compassion they have shown has had a huge impact. Many individuals and local businesses have donated to the effort and I want to thank them for their generosity. ”
Geraldine Lawless, Acting Chair of the Community and Voluntary Sector Panel reflecting on everything that has been done, says she feels “extremely proud” of what the local community has achieved. “They have worked so hard and it’s brought the community together”, said Geraldine.
She added, “The Community and Voluntary Sector has worked in partnership with each other, local businesses, schools, mental health services, social care, statutory agencies like the council, NI Housing Executive, the local health trust and PSNI and government departments. The crisis has broken down barriers that were there before and more collaboration is needed if we are to support communities through what will come next.”
Looking to the future 65% of survey respondents believe that the need for food support will increase or stay the same over the next six months and most cited businesses closing, unemployment and mental health problems as the main issues that communities would be facing as a result of the crisis.
Overwhelming the majority of survey respondents (93.5%) wanted to increase their partnership working to meet the needs in their communities. The panel have agreed to work together to contribute to the community planning partnership plan for recovery and the need for clear guidance for community organisations on a route back to normality.
Geraldine added, “By building on the fantastic community-led response to Covid-19 we can develop our skills for future initiatives.”
Armagh, Banbridge Craigavon Community Planning Partnership intends to make a fresh call for members to join its Community and Voluntary Sector Panel, if this is something you would be interested in please keep an eye on our website, social media and local press during August for more information.