Poole Community Exchange (PCE) usually supplies food in the form of weekly community meals, served to between 10 and 20 people at the Parkstone United Reformed Church. Our aim is to support people who have been marginalised, are vulnerable or excluded. Though the Coronavirus pandemic has forced us to shut our doors for the time being, we have actually expanded our food provision to meet the growing need. Thanks mainly to FareShare in Southampton, in the first 5 weeks we managed to obtain 1136 trays of surplus food and distribute it to 250 hostels and refuges, plus 453 households, feeding an estimated 3351 people! We have also reached out to local foodbanks and others to help them keep their shelves stocked.
Helping the community during this unprecedented time has required PCE to scale up our operations. We have had to purchase another fridge and 2 freezers, and are using the kitchen, with its commercial refrigeration, our office and a meeting room at our Parkstone URC base, who have allowed us to use their premises for this operation.
Making these changes has been a challenge, but PCE’s staff and volunteers have come together with other local organisations to reach as many people in need as possible. This has been a collaborative effort, with the local Day Centre and Hall and Woodhouse offering their walk-in freezers for storage and Probation Services providing 3 vans and 6 drivers, as well as us being able to use the Lifeworks charity van. We have 16 volunteers, and two local employees being seconded to us, and have clocked up over 1,000 miles delivering and collecting food. We are replacing some of the many other sources of help and food needs across the region, which were from churches and satellite hubs which have closed because of Corvid-19.
We know that there is still work to be done. The needs of the community will only grow larger as long as the pandemic lasts, and we will rise to that challenge because of the dedication of so many organisations and volunteers, as well, of course, to those who have given us grants towards our extra costs. BCP Council have recently selected us as part of the Food Access Group for Poole.