A new weekly service will start in the coming days which will see 10,000 food boxes being delivered to the most vulnerable in society during the COVID-19 lockdown.
This support by the Department for Communities will allow a weekly box of mainly non-perishable goods to be delivered directly to the door of vulnerable people who have been notified to shield by their GPs and who cannot afford food and do not have access to local support networks.
These boxes will also be available to those who are not shielding but are in critical need of food.
The Department is leading the initiative that has been made possible through collaborative working with Health Trusts, local councils, the Voluntary and Community sector and the private sector.
Minister Deirdre Hargey said: “This vital service will ensure that those most in need in our society who do not have a support network of family and friends to help them through this emergency will have access to basic food supplies.
“Not only will it ensure that the most vulnerable do not go without but it will allow those at risk of social isolation to see a friendly face and know that we as a society have not forgotten about them.
“There’s a tremendous amount of goodwill and generosity in action across our society, which is very welcome at this challenging time.”
Paying tribute to all the partners involved in getting the service up and running, the Minister added: “This is an example of genuine collaboration across the public, private and community sectors. My officials are working with local food suppliers, local councils and the community and voluntary sector to get this vital service in place.
“With social distancing and shielding measures in place for the foreseeable future to protect health, this service will be a crucial lifeline for many.”
The first food boxes are due to be delivered in the coming days to those who have been identified as being most at risk of food poverty during the COVID-19 pandemic, including families, older citizens and some of those who are shielding having received letters from their GPs.
Minister Hargey explained: “Initial volumes for food provision are 10,000 packages per week, however there will be the ability to change this number up or down as required based on data from the COVID-19 Community Helpline, local partnership groups and councils which are best placed to identify those in immediate need of food insecurity.”
Food suppliers will provide the food boxes to local councils. The packages will include items such as tinned food, dried food and soap alongside some fresh fruit and bread.
The boxes will then be delivered by local voluntary and community organisations to those people who have been identified as being most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Freephone COVID-19 Community Helpline can be accessed by telephone on 0808 802 0020; email firstname.lastname@example.org or text ACTION to 81025. It is available 7 days a week, 9am to 5pm.