Helen Woodcock: expanding food production
Food supply has emerged as a major issue during the pandemic. In the early stages of lockdown, supermarkets and food banks struggled to keep up with demand, causing panic-buying across the UK. With social distancing measures enforced, workforces reduced and the need for PPE, the food production industry has had to respond quickly to the crisis and adapt its practices.
Helen Woodcock is the co-founder of The Kindling Trust, a not-for-profit social enterprise that works for an ecologically sustainable society and uses food as a catalyst for environmental and social change. As part of this, she helped establish Veg Box People, which provides organic vegetable boxes for the local community via collection points such as cafes, community centres and universities.
As lockdown was enforced, demand for this service increased whilst collection points were closed. Helen and her team had to adapt and respond quickly, providing direct deliveries to customers who were self-isolating, sourcing more volunteers to increase farming activities and pack the food, and reorganising their systems under new social distancing measures. This swift action has ensured that they have been able to continue to help their community during the pandemic. However, they haven't been able to fully meet the increased demand, with 350 people on their waiting list. Helen will use her grant to expand their services including securing a new, bigger packing unit which will allow an expanded team of volunteers to pack food at a safe distance, provide space for storage, and increase food supply to existing and new customers. Additionally, she will expand their communications activity to engage new customers. Finally, she will prepare for further changes which may come as a result of the end of lockdown, such as changes to collection points. Helen's Churchill Fellowship to Spain and Austria explored how to increase access to sustainable food.