With more hot meals being delivered to disadvantaged and vulnerable people in local communities, a regional co-operative has offered a helping hand by donating 2,100 takeaway containers.

Southern Co-op has given hundreds of the containers to four different charities in the south of England to help them continue to support people in need during the pandemic.

The LifeHouse, in Portsmouth, is a kitchen, resource and support centre that serves hot food in Albert Road twice a week.

With many in the city facing desperate situations, the charity aims to show that there is a way out and a first step up is possible.

Mike Morell, LifeHouse Manager, said: “We welcome everybody including those homeless, rough sleepers, underhoused, sofa surfers, those feeling disconnected or/and not so well in themselves, lonely and lacking friendship.

“Our services have stepped up since COVID-19 and we have needed takeaway boxes in order to serve food to the vulnerable individuals that we work with in a safe way. We have been serving 900 hot, free meals a month in takeaway form since the current health crisis began.

“These cardboard boxes kindly supplied by Southern Co-op have been pressed into service already and are a huge help in getting our hot dinners out to people quickly.”

The request for help from the four charities came via Business in the Community’s National Business Response Network which was formed last year to connect charities with businesses in order to meet requests for food, clothing, care essentials and digital skills.

Southern Co-op, which operates retail, funeral and coffee services across the south of England, has assisted a number of local causes through this network including materials for face coverings for Voluntary and Community Sector Emergencies Partnership, and social distancing signage for a brain injury charity.

The other charities to receive takeaway containers were the Whitley Community Development Association in Reading, which has been working on a hunger project since the summer, giving takeaway meals to 100 residents, three times a week; Feast with Us, in London, which is a food poverty charity that delivers hot meals to vulnerable people who are shielding and suffering from low incomes; and Fair Shares Gloucester, which has been cooking and delivering hot meals to those who are most vulnerable since lockdown.

Mark Smith, Chief Executive of Southern Co-op, said: “As the pandemic is now in its second year, the need to work together and support each other is more important than ever with more people finding themselves in extremely vulnerable situations.

“We are fortunate to have some wonderful charities, like LifeHouse and its volunteers, who have been working tirelessly throughout. I’d urge other businesses to find out more about the National Business Response Network. The chances are, there is something you do or use on a daily basis which you could share with a local charity to make the world of difference.”

Business can find out more about the network via businessresponsecovid.org.uk.

Usha Manojkanth, Connections Manager for the South of England at BITC, said: “It has been great to work with such passionate community leaders in the south over the past months, and to enable them to continue doing what they do best. Southern Co-op has played an important role in enabling these groups to continue to support their beneficiaries at a time like this. I am pleased we have been able to make these connections, between business and charities, to support disadvantaged communities in need during the current pandemic.”

To find out more about Southern Co-op’s commitment to its local communities, visit www.thesouthernco-operative.co.uk/love-your-neighbourhood/.

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