We currently give essential food packs to 200 people in Nicosia and the surrounding areas. It started as a delivery service to some vulnerable members and expanded as needs and conditions have changed. In order to make that a dignified experience we have a system!
Stage 1: Delivering to homes
When the government imposed Covid-related restrictions on movement, we began a service delivering about 30 food packs per week direct to the accommodation where refugees were isolating. This was an essential lifeline because some had no recourse to public funds, and those who had food vouchers lived too far from the shop where they could redeem them (the govt allowed people to leave their accommodation for no more than 3 hours per day which made it impossible for many with vouchers to shop).
Stage 2: The Dignity Centre Food Bank
Restrictions on self-isolation were lifted at the end of May but there were still people who were facing severe hardship and needed support with food. So we stopped home deliveries then and set up a Food Bank at the Dignity Centre where people could come and collect food, adhering to government guidelines on distancing.
We are supplying a total of 200 people week with a food parcel at a rate of 100 per week.
Here is how the system works:
- We started by sending a message to our All Members WhatsApp List asking them to let us know if they were interested in receiving a food parcel
- If is someone that is not already a member, they are welcome too, but we ask them to register at the Dignity the first time they come to collect the food parcel
- In the first week we had around 70 people asking but that number quickly grew so we switched from a weekly to a fortnightly distribution to manage the flow of people and adhere to social distancing. That allowed us to do 100 persons one week (Group A) and 100 more the next week (Group B).
- The food bank is Tuesday (35 people), Wednesday (35 people) and Thursday (30 people) from 11am to 2pm.
- On Monday we send to each person a WhatsApp or sms reminding them the day and time they need to come:
“Hello! The Dignity is happy to say that our Food Bank is still open. You can come to collect your bag this THURSDAY 2nd July, from 11am to 2pm. Please, be on time.”
- Each person has a day of the week assigned and it is always the same. That means that they know always which is their day, and can plan the week if they need to go to Welfare, Labour office, look for a job, etc.
- Changes of the day are not allowed. Or there needs to be a very strong (!) justification. We do allow people living in the surrounding villages to change, depending which day is better for them to come to Nicosia during the week.
- If they received the message and don’t come to collect the food without getting in touch with us, that spot remains free. So we use that bag for a new person.
- Anyone who did not collect the food parcel can apply again but needs to send a message on the Monday.
- When people come to collect the food, we ask them to show us the WhatsApp or sms we send to them, and their membership card.
- One thing we have noticed now with the food bank as opposed to deliveries is that we have a lot of women coming to collect the food bag. When the bag is for women, we include sanitary pads and if they have a baby, we include wet wipes too.
There are two main benefits to this invitation system:
- The people who are already on the list don’t need to ask again every two weeks. It is so much more dignified to tell them that they do not need to ask, we will get in touch with them sending the message to remind them the day
- We do not have queueing which is not only demeaning but also runs the risk of breaching government restrictions on social distancing
None of this would be possible without fantastic volunteers, understanding members and critically a substantial grant from our good friends at Latter-Day Saint Charities.