Help the Hungry: How our campaign took on a crisis in food inequality – and why it matters

January 3, 2021
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You did it! Today our Help the Hungry appeal surpassed its target of raising £10m to feed some of our nation’s poorest people, and we got there thanks to your extraordinary generosity.

Nine months ago, when we launched Help the Hungry from a standing start 72 hours after lockdown, we did it because we feared food poverty would soar as vulnerable families came under pressure. We partnered with The Felix Project, one of the UK’s biggest surplus food distributors, and were the first British publication out of the blocks with a campaign.

Initially we thought raising £3m to support Felix would be enough, but as the hunger crisis deepened, we set the bold goal of raising £10m and founding central London’s largest social kitchen. It was a hugely ambitious ask and we risked being embarrassed by falling short, but last week’s shocking revelations that the university-educated middle classes now comprise 10 per cent of the food bank queue exemplifies just how bad things have become.

We had high hopes that this government would step in to match-fund our efforts, but Felix got a risible £150,000 from government. It was barely enough to cover two weeks operating costs, yet nothing more was forthcoming, despite heavy criticism in the House of Lords that the government was “not doing enough” and advice from the National Food Strategy – commissioned by government and delivered by Henry Dimbleby – that charities like Felix were excellent value for money.

Nevertheless, with food bank queues swelling, donations poured in, including – remarkably – more than £1m from ordinary members of the public. We secured large corporate and philanthropic backers, including £250,000 or more from each of Ocado, Morgan Stanley, Barclays, Citi, the Garfield Weston Foundation and Lansdowne Partners.

Stars turned out in force to energise our effort, with Olivia Colman, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jack Whitehall, Melissa Hemsley, Spurs footballer Moussa Sissoko and rapper KSI all going out on the road to volunteer for Felix. The Duchess of Sussex gave her backing by Zoom.

We activated the giants of the art world. Damien Hirst and Sir Peter Blake made new art works that were sold on our behalf, raising over £1.7m. Sir Antony Gormley, Ai Weiwei, Tracey Emin, Anish Kapoor, Yinka Shonibare and Bridget Riley donated or auctioned pieces for our campaign.

The steady supply of funding enabled Felix to scale up in a remarkable – almost military-like – way, quadrupling deliveries to a massive 40 tonnes a day. Six days a week for the last nine months, Felix’s 25 green vans have fanned out across the capital, ferrying food parcels to food banks and charities supporting struggling families – as well as the homeless, refugees, domestic abuse shelters, elderly shielded people and people with mental health issues.

Felix has supplied an astounding 20 million meals to 600 charities and schools since lockdown. That is a an incredible effort that you, our readers, can be proud of. It boggles the mind to imagine how much worse things would have been without your support.

Helping vulnerable people not to worry where their next meal was coming from is part of our – and your – pandemic legacy. And now, with the opening of the social kitchen in the New Year – an initiative to employ 15 chefs and kitchen staff to cook and deliver 1.5 million meals to those in need every year – we have created a permanent resource that will help tackle hunger long after Covid.

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