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@CRC_College and @CambridgeUtdFC have opened up their professional kitchens to maximise meal production, for community-based projects which provide lunches for those in need during the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown. 

Community based projects, supporting those most in need within the city of Cambridge, have been operating for several years. One such project is the holiday lunches scheme, developed by a network of organisations and supported by Cambridge City Council to support families during school holidays when free school meal provision stops. 

The Coronavirus pandemic and unprecedented changes that have followed has resulted in the closure of schools, subsequently leaving families without a guaranteed hot meal for their children. To address the increasing need for support within the community, the existing holiday lunches scheme has been adapted and extended in partnership with the food poverty alliance (FPA) and Cambridge Sustainable Food (CSF) to provide a collaborative lunch scheme to support those most in need during the pandemic. 

Cllr Collis said, “Moving production of our community meals up to Cambridge Regional College has made a huge difference. The situation is still uncertain, and we don’t yet know what the longer term impact will be on Cambridge families, but being able to use these fantastic facilities means that if we need to start increasing the support we offer as demand rises, then we will be ready. I really can’t thank the college enough for such a warm and generous welcome, and for making this possible. As a council we are very much focused on addressing poverty in the city, including food poverty, and this move has made it possible for us to continue doing that.”

Responsibility for the co-ordination of the new scheme has been split, with Councillor Collis looking after the logistics and volunteers, while Cambridge Sustainable food oversee the health and safety, protocols, food supply and funding.

While the project initially catered for those families already registered with the lunch scheme, the CSF and FPA has developed a three pronged approach to the current system to ensure that the scheme is fully accessible; an established telephone and online signposting/ referral service, a network of community food hubs, with the aim of seven access points across the City by the beginning of May and a community meals/ shopping bag for registered families. This approach has seen the number of families contacting the council helpline and being referred by lead organisations increase significantly demonstrating the growing need within the city. 

In support of the increasing demand, Cambridge Regional College and Cambridge United have opened up their professional kitchens to maximise meal production, as food hubs continue to open across the city.

The professional kitchens have enabled the volunteers to produce enough meals to feed each person within a household for up to two or three days. In addition, each family receives up to three bags of shopping which are put together by volunteers using food delivered each week by Fareshare, a charity fighting hunger food waste.

The project was launched on Monday 20th April and in the first two weeks, 1800 kg of food has been donated to the lunch scheme. This enabled the volunteers to produce over 1600 portions of food and 350 bags of shopping. In total, 126 families have been supported with meals from the CRC kitchens, with additional families accessing the Community Hubs, which receive all the surplus meals. The work that has taken place to enable this level of support has only been possible through the commitment of the volunteers, who have had given over 300 volunteering hours in just fourteen days. 

CRC said, “This is an unprecedented time for our community, and the wider world. We were glad to be able to provide the facilities the project needed to ramp up its production of meals for those in need at this time. As we adapt to these challenging situations, what brings hope is the ever impressive dedication and compassion of communities coming together in times of crisis to look after and support one another.” 

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