The Covid-19 lockdown created many challenges for third sector organisations across Scotland and our members have responded strongly and admirably to the crisis.  Despite facing an almost overnight loss of trading income many community reuse and recycling organisations have been pivoting their efforts to support those in their communities who were isolated or were particularly vulnerable during the lockdown.

In this new series of Lockdown Conversations, our CEO, Michael Cook, speaks to some CRNS members about how they have been supporting their communities through this difficult time.

In this our third video, Michael talks to Pamela Candea from Transition Stirling and Cheri Lund at the Fed-up Cafe who have been working in partnership with our member The Reuse Shop in Stranraer to provide food during the lockdown.

What was the impact of Covid-19 on your organisation?

Transition Stirling’s main project before lockdown was a tool library in the city centre although they had also recently opened a small community fridge.  When the lockdown hit, for safety reasons the tool library had to close but use of the community fridge was about to grow dramatically.

In Stranraer the Fed-up Cafe was already offering a sit in cafe service whereby the isolated, lonely or financially hard-up could come for a meal. Up the road the Reuse Shop was also running a thriving furniture reuse shop.  When the Scottish Government announced the lockdown both services had to stop but with some imaginative thinking could a way be found to work together to meet the needs of the communities around Stranraer?

How did you respond to the needs of your community?

The Fed-up cafe switched from a sit down cafe to cooking over 200 meals per day to be delivered to people in their homes.  This created an immediate logistical problem, how were these meals going to be delivered?  The answer came from the Reuse Shop who had just closed their shop and were therefore doing much less furniture deliveries.  A successful partnership was formed between the two organisations and since the lockdown began they have together prepared and delivered over 13,000 meals to those isolating, those shielding and disadvantaged families  in their communities.

Since I have been receiving meals delivered, I comment every day, to offer my grateful thanks and real amazement at the kindness. Not just for the food, but for a kindly, friendly face, and a human voice.”  Nancy

At Transition Stirling the community fridge rapidly expanded.  From one food shop providing food, before long ten shops and supermarkets were providing food to the community fridge.  They took in and distributed food for over 48,000 meals and over 3,000 people came into the fridge to collect food.  As well as providing nutritious food the community fridge also provided important social contact during this difficult time.

What have been the environmental benefits?

Pam from Stirling, commented that food waste is a major contributor to global climate emissions which is why finding new and innovative ways to avoid this waste is key.  Since the lockdown Transition Stirling have saved over 27 tonnes of food from going to landfill.  As well as the direct carbon savings, the project also has had a valuable role in educating people about food, where it comes from and the importance of not wasting it.

The Fed-up Cafe has received one quarter of a tonne of food each week from FareShare as well as waste direct from local food retailers and even individuals. Most of this food would have ended up in landfill so by finding such a valuable way to use this food to benefit this community has a direct benefit for the environment.  Cheri was keen to point out that the food they are left with at the end of each day is not wasted either.  The first option is to pass the food on to local food banks and after that it is used by a local farmer so nothing is wasted.

What policy changes are needed going forward?

Cheri is keen to ask government for more support for local communities to meet the overwhelming needs of those who are suffering.  Pam called for the Scottish Government to follow France’s recent example and make it illegal to throw away good food.

At CRNS we are committed to reducing all forms of waste including food waste.  Food should never be thrown away but is is even more unacceptable when people nearby are suffering from food poverty.  We celebrate the response of Fed-up Cafe, The Reuse Shop and Transition Stirling in supporting their communities and also delivering a more environmentally friendly solution to the problem of food waste.