#UKPoli: It’s time for us all to do what we can. #UKPolitics

I’m writing this in between two calls.

One was this morning: connecting a local chef with the Tooting fire station – so some fresh eggs can find a new home – after the chef had to close his restaurant and the fire fighters can’t get a food delivery. The next call has been convened by Lambeth council – instigated by the Lambeth Larder and involving around 30 of Lambeth’s community organisations involved in food – to work out a boroughwide strategy.

This has become my new reality – and it is all virtual.

Along with many others, this crisis has given me sleepless nights and a few more grey hairs. But I’ve managed to keep sane by reminding myself that we are all in this together, globally, and I can help locally.

I work in food and hold a unique space across the boroughs of Wandsworth and Lambeth – I’m a Councillor, a café owner, charity CEO, and resident. As a Councillor in Wandsworth, I’ve been checking in on voluntary sector organisations to see if they are prepared and what they need. I’ve been advocating for support for them, which has been severely lacking for many years. My hope is that this is the start of something much more permanent for the sector. I’ve also been encouraging people to support the small business owners when the big supermarkets are cleaned out.

My charity, Be Enriched, has had to close our social eating projects – but it’s presented the team with an opportunity to investigate and trial new ways of working, potentially reaching a wider audience and ensuring these people are getting their vegetables and a bit of human contact (at a social distance). Our Community Food bus project, a double decker that we’re converting into a mobile green grocer and café, is still in production – and I only wish it was in operation now as it would help so many people. Be Enriched also runs the Wandsworth Food Partnership: as restaurants and cafes close down and need to get rid of stock, the whole team has been inundated with queries about food redistribution. Connecting the food with places where it can be utilised is key and food partnerships can play a key role in this crisis, connecting the food systems, so it is worth working with the local one.

Our community café, Brixton People’s Kitchen, has also had to close to the public. But the team immediately put their heads together, figuratively, to work out how to put their skills and the venue to use. The plan is to work co-operatively with Lambeth Council, housing associations, and other organisations, to ensure that in the borough has access to food. It is still early days.

As a resident, like many of you I’ve joined a local mutual aid group and I’m awaiting the moment I’m needed – offering a delivery of fresh and cooked food to anyone who needs it. I’m trying to play my part, because it’s time for us all to do what we can. There are so many things you can do: to start, you can support your local shops or donate to your local independent food bank – IFAN have a list on their website. We’ve all being asked to keep our distance from each other, but it’s possible to be more together whilst staying apart.

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About James Butler

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