During the Covid-19 pandemic, the BD Together team did a fantastic job in supporting the local people of Barking and Dagenham, and in particular for vulnerable children with the provision of food hampers, which equated to over 200,000 meals.
Once the seriousness of the Covid-19 pandemic began to become apparent in early 2020, the team knew that they would do whatever they could to support the local community, their schools and the children, and of course, each other.
When the prospect of schools closing looked more and more likely, they were approached by the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham to assist them in providing a provision for children who qualified for Free School Meals should schools stay open for key worker children only. When school closures were announced, the team immediately sprung into action to orchestrate the collation and distribution of food hampers to thousands of vulnerable children across Barking and Dagenham. The team set up the Conference Hall at LondonEast-UK business park as the centre of the operation and within a week of lockdown commencing, thousands of hampers were ready to be delivered. Each hamper comprised the equivalent of two weeks' worth of healthy lunches for each child.
The food hampers were accompanied by a recipe booklet to inspire and encourage parents to cook with their children using the hamper ingredients. And by getting a hamper full of healthy food rather than a food voucher, they hoped that the hampers would educate the parents about the benefits of a healthy diet and the school’s health eating programmes. As a company, BD Together decided to offer hampers rather than food vouchers as they were aware that school lunches can be the only proper meal of the day for some of children, so they wanted to make sure they received a balanced, nutritious meal.
During the first lockdown, BD Services, BD Group’s building maintenance and repairs business, which BD Together is also part of, was only able to carry out emergency and essential repairs and compliance services, so many of its operatives were redeployed to assist BD Together to deliver the food hampers to families across Barking and Dagenham.
In total, c. 16,800 hampers were delivered to vulnerable children between March and July 2020, which was the equivalent to 168,000 free school meals.
Shortly after the start of the first lockdown, BD Together received an email from the Community Solutions department at the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, asking for help to coordinate the support offer to vulnerable residents self-isolating that could not get essential supplies. They were looking to mobilise volunteers to support with the logistical side of things but were having real trouble with the supply side – particularly food as the supermarkets introduced rationing so volunteers are unable to buy enough food for all the people they were helping. BD Together worked with its suppliers to source the food they needed and then distribute the food.
Once schools were back in September, BD Together continued to provide hampers for children who were self-isolating.
Prior to Christmas 2020 BD Together was asked by the council to be the main supplier of hampers for all schools within the Borough for children on Free School Meals to cover the Christmas holiday. The team really welcomed being able to reach even more of the local community during this time.
In addition to the tremendous operation to collate and distribute thousands of hampers, during the lockdowns all apart from four of the schools that BD Together provides the catering for remained open for vulnerable children and the children of key workers; BD Together continued to provide lunches for these children.
BD Together is still producing ad hoc hampers for children who are self-isolating and for half term holidays.
Since March 2020 the team have produced in total approximately 200,000 hamper meals. The team worked closely with the schools and the council throughout to support them and their children, to continue to provide health meals and to provide good value for money. Their efforts have been recognised by the council, schools, parents and children.