Covid-19 forces charity to ‘turn on a sixpence’

In the space of two weeks Covid-19 has forced The Port Grocery to ‘turn on a sixpence’.

That’s the message from Rita Lewis, who is one of the founders of the Ellesmore Port charity, which has received £45,730 from the Steve Morgan Foundation.

The charity tackles food waste and food poverty by providing affordable options and before coronavirusregularly welcomed more than 500 people to their Trinity Church base to collect high-quality, low-cost food.

However the pandemic stopped them in their tracks but they realised that Covid-19 meant there still a desperate need for their services.

Rather than close, The Port Grocery recruited an army of volunteer drivers and began delivering emergency food boxes direct to people’s homes.

Rita said: “We’ve virtually doubled the number of people we were working with before Covid-19. As well as helping the people we were before we are getting referrals from GPs and other organisations for isolated, vulnerable people and even some who are end-of-life.

“On Monday we had no fewer than 50 referrals from one housing association for their tenants. It means we now have a team of 30 people producing the emergency boxes and 40 volunteer drivers delivering the food across Ellesmere Port, Chester, Rock Ferry and Elton.”

The boxes contain everything from fresh meat and fish, vegetables, cereals, bread and fruit.

The Port Grocery previously relied on food that was close to its best before date being given to them by the likes of Tesco, M&S, Morrison’s, Costco, Sainsbury’s and Aldi rather than being taken to landfill.

However the massive spike in demand caused by Covid-19 meant they needed to buy more food – which is why they approached the Steve Morgan Foundation.

“There was no help available from the council or the government,” said Rita. “I don’t believe we could have got through the last two weeks without the £45,730 award from the Steve Morgan Foundation. This week alone we’ve spent £8,000 on 16 tonnes of food.

“We’ve been described as a ‘Godsend’ by some of the people we’re helping and I know we’re making a difference. One person said he’d be able to feed his family for three days.”

The Port Grocery initially grew out of another charity also previously supported by the Steve Morgan Foundation – the Debt Advice Network.

Steve Morgan, founder of the Steve Morgan Foundation, congratulated The Port Grocery on their agility in pivoting the business.

“The Port Group is a perfect example of a charity that has adapted its business model in light of Covid-19,” he said. “Rita and the team are doing a brilliant job in improving the lives of their community. We were delighted to step in and help.”

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