Covid-19: A Year in the Life of a Food Bank

It's been a tumultuous, exasperating year. The world will never be quite the same again. Nor will life at Sufra… 

The poverty-ridden, mainly BAME communities we support in Brent were devastated by Covid-19. We've never seen crisis, loss of life or families unable to afford food on this scale. Demand for food aid rocketed by 332% compared to last year. It was heartbreaking.  

In total, we distributed the equivalent of 345,000 meals to families in crisis. We collaborated with countless organisations and even received a letter from HM the Queen's Lord-Lieutenant thanking us for our efforts. We've emerged from the pandemic battle-hardened, bigger and more resolute than ever. 

What did we learn? That providing food aid at this scale, whilst essential in a crisis, is a logistical nightmare and truly does nothing to address inequality and injustice in our communities. We all need to do much more if we are to create lasting, positive change. And that's just what we intend to do.  

Below is a snapshot of what we did during the crisis, where we are today and what the future holds for Sufra. 

Sufra by Numbers

We Are Stronger Together 

For the duration of the pandemic, we were forced to close our doors to the public and establish a volunteer-driven delivery service. We also worked with volunteers to create a high-tech digital platform to manage our referrals and deliveries. Working with partner organisations, we set up a new Ready Meal Service for those experiencing homelessness, and those temporarily housed in precarious accommodation without a kitchen.  

Collaboration and partnerships were central to our success and still are. Our partnerships included: 

  • Brent Food Aid Network - BFAN (Sufra chairs regular meetings with around a dozen other food aid providers in Brent)  
  • Brent Council (Sufra is the voluntary sector Thematic Lead on Food Aid, on behalf of BFAN)  
  • Independent Food Aid Network - IFAN (We work with IFAN to support their UK wide-advocacy efforts)  
  • Charities and Voluntary Sector organisations in Brent (There are too many to name) 
  • Local mosques, churches, temples and synagogues
  • Mutual Aid Groups (providing both food donations and distribution support)  
  • Local, national and global businesses (they contributed immeasurably to our work) 
  • Trusts and Foundations (providing critical funding) 
  • Pilotlight (a charity providing dedicated business support)

To everyone that continues to support us, especially our phenomenal volunteers and donors, we are indebted and eternally grateful. We wouldn't have made it through the pandemic without you. Thank you.  

It Ain't Over Yet 

Demand for food aid has reduced since the peak of the crisis, but it is still more than twice as high as before the pandemic. The situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon.  

Today, our key challenge is how (and when) to reopen our face-to-face services. Our main building is now being used for storage and packing. There is simply no space for guests to return, let alone for our expanded team of staff and volunteers to work. It's a frustrating situation.  

There is also a huge amount of activity going on behind the scenes, from expanding our team of Advice and Outreach Volunteers to upgrading our digital and financial infrastructure. We're doing more advocacy and campaigning, and we're even exploring setting up new food access services, growing spaces and community kitchens.  

But only by working with you will we ever be able to achieve our vision of being 'a community united to address the causes and consequences of poverty. If there is one thing the pandemic has taught us it's that we really are in this together.  

Sign up for our newsletter for updates on our activities and how to get involved.  

Rajesh Makwana, Director, Sufra NW London 


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