Reports Coronavirus Food Alert

Food for vulnerable people in Covid-19 lockdown: Integrating wholesale supply

Briefing on organising food for vulnerable people in Covid-19 lockdown - integrating wholesale - for local authorities and Local Resilience Forums working in partnership with local community and voluntary organisations.


This briefing aims to inform strategic emergency planners, local authorities, food partnerships, Local Resilience Forums (LRFs) and voluntary sector groups – especially those working in partnership to organise food provision – at large scale – for vulnerable people needing to self-isolate or stay at home during Covid-19, including those with too little money to buy the food they need.

The publication can be downloaded free of charge - click on "No Donation". Any donations received will be put towards the Covid-19 food relief effort.

This briefing seeks to remind emergency food responders of the hugely important role that wholesalers can play in providing both a local and national solution. Wholesalers and cash-and-carries routinely support local communities, supplying affordable food to thousands of convenience stores, care homes, caterers and foodservice providers all over the country.

Wholesalers and cash-and-carries can help to help meet the huge demand for food for vulnerable people. As just one example, the London Borough of Southwark is already feeding 1,200 individuals a week with a home delivery system organised with the cash-and-carry Bestway, working with a local authority contract. Indicatively, if we were to scale such a system up, this system could feed nearly 36,000 customers in London alone, or more than 400,000 across the 350 local authorities in the UK.

This briefing provides advice tailored in particular to London’s local authorities and Local Resilience Forums, based on our experience of integrating wholesale supply into the Covid-19 emergency food response in Southwark. The principles can be applied anywhere. It also provides recommendations on what could be done to quickly scale up orders, availability and home delivery. It sets out key steps and considerations under the following headings:

  1. Triage the need and define your customer
  2. Keep it simple
  3. Use the Crown Commercial Service Wholesale agreement for ambient food
  4. Consolidate fruit, veg and chilled orders via wholesale markets and local markets
  5. Work with wholesalers, cash-and-carries
  6. Manage home delivery

This is a practical response, connecting existing assets, skills and resources in a sensible and cost-effective way. We believe that this process is hugely scalable and can make a real difference to feeding the vulnerable, not just now but in the future.

The author of this briefing (published 22 April 2020) is:

  • Stephanie Rice, founder of Rice Marketing. With over 30 years of retail experience in the food and convenience sector, Stephanie Rice provides marketing consultancy to a range of large food retail and wholesale businesses. She has been involved in several implementation projects of the London Food Strategy and works with Sustain's London Food Link network on the Good Food Retail project, improving access to healthy and affordable food for diverse communities.

With editorial support from:

  • Kath Dalmeny chief executive of the charity Sustain: The alliance for better farming, whose members include the main UK food bank and charitable food aid distribution associations; advisor to the London resilience forum; member of the London Food Board; and participating in regional and national strategic groups advising on food for vulnerable people during Covid-19.

Food for vulnerable people in Covid-19 lockdown: Integrating wholesale supply
8pp - 2020 | 1000Kb


Published Wednesday 22 April 2020

Coronavirus Food Alert: Sustain's work on food resilience in the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.We are helping secure food for vulnerable people and supporting local emergency responses.

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