In recent weeks, Marcus Rashford’s campaign, and the government’s withdrawal of its lunch voucher scheme over the autumn break, has exposed the mounting human cost of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the government performed a welcome U-Turn two days ago, ring fencing £170m for meal provision by Christmas, communities across the country needed immediate assistance. The deepening recession, and the spectre of a second lockdown, meant that many families have struggled to bring food to the table, especially during the half-term break. This is a tragic state of affairs, and required urgent action in lieu of government provision.
In response, social enterprises across the country stepped up to support children, families, and communities. In doing so, business models which prioritise social value once again prove their unique importance within British society. The coordination and support they offered manifested in a variety of ways, depending on capacity and need. In Essex, GO4 Enterprises, a social enterprise which provides work, training, and support for the unemployed, has spent £1,000 to help provide free school meals, and has so far fed at least 238 families. What’s more, they have been providing food for more than 30 families throughout the pandemic, ensuring there is a reliable support network for the most vulnerable. This emphasises GO4’s commitment to its local community, and underlines the value of an organisation devoted to a social mission.
Similarly, in Belfast, Loaf Cafe and Bakery received encouragement from Marcus Rashford himself, after launching a scheme to provide struggling families with healthy food packs over the school break. Ordinarily, Loaf works to train, support, and employ people with learning difficulties and autism, and were already a beacon of community solidarity. The adaptation and extension of their social mission during the pandemic once again shows how naturally socially oriented businesses respond to crises, and how essential they are in supporting us during difficult times.
A particularly innovative approach to the same issue has been found by another social enterprise, The Long Table. This community food hall was already already well-placed to help with food provision, but faced with rocketing needs and new health risks related to communal meals, The Long Table established their ‘Freezers of Love’ scheme, whereby people can access freshly cooked, frozen ready meals in freezers across Gloucestershire. This ingenious solution has seen the team provide 48,000 ready meals, and counting, with this practical, easy to access scheme. It is another testament to the adaptability and vision of community-based social enterprises.
Comparable responses are popping up across the UK, with many social enterprises teaming up with one another to provide food and support quickly and where it’s most needed. One example is the Community Shop Group’s new store in Kirkdale, Liverpool. Here, they have worked with social landlord, Onward Homes, to open a social supermarket and cafe. Onward provided their former office to the group, and the new shop has quickly established itself as a community staple, with subsidised meals at the cafe (£2 for a full english!) as well as food and essential items. This ability to connect up and respond to fundamental needs shows the power of social enterprises as a movement; a movement which is driven principally by the needs of communities.
As these shining examples have shown, social enterprises are able to offer support to those who need it most, whilst providing employment and income for local economies. In this way, it is unarguable that businesses such as these will be essential to the post-COVID ‘build back better’ plan, and that the social enterprise sector will continue to grow in importance and efficacy in delivering an economy that works for everyone.
Social enterprises have supported many during the pandemic, meeting essential needs and supporting impacted communities. You can support social enterprises and allow them to continue their important work through buying ever day products and services from them. Interested in hearing how to get started? Get in touch with us today at email@example.com