Covid-19 Spotlight: Malachi Specialist Family Support Services

9 November 2020

Sarah, a mother of five living in Birmingham, knows how important it can be to know that there’s someone to help you in your time of need. “I’m a mum of five,” she says, “all adults apart from one 15 year old. I’m a full-time carer for my eldest daughter, helping her to take her medications, reminding her to eat.” A few years ago, Sarah reached a crisis – waiting for benefits to kick in while bills piled up. “It was either keep the house warm or eat,” she remembers, “terrible, having to decide between buying food and paying the bills.” Her son’s school referred her to Malachi Specialist Family Support Services, who were helped her access food from FareShare. “It was quite a relief to know that there’s people out there that care and can help. They brought food I could cook with: chicken, cheese, tinned soup, all sorts,” she remembers.

Kim Ensor, the Building Manager and Family Community Connector for Malachi Specialist Family Support Services, speaks proudly of Malachi’s track record in the community. “We’ve been working with FareShare for about eight or nine years,” she explains “I think the fact we’ve gone on for so long really shows what it means to the community. It’s had a big impact. For people who are desperate, it can just make a world of difference. We’ve had people come in crying, we get thank you letters all the time. We always try to talk to people, see what’s going on at home, if there’s anything else we can help with. I think maybe the biggest impact is that people in the community know that if they’re struggling, it’s there for them, there’s someone who can help.”

Both Kim and Sarah say they saw how hard the Covid-19 pandemic hit people across Birmingham. “People have been furloughed, they’ve lost their jobs or had their hours cut,” says Kim, “I’d say we normally get about 20 people picking up food in a week, and that’s tripled, maybe even quadrupled, over the summer.”

To meet the surge in demand, Malachi increased their FareShare delivery to launch a new food larder program in March, with thrice weekly pick-ups. “We’ve probably had about 600 families come through since the start of summer,” says Kim, “Most of them totally new to us, we’ve worked with organisations across the city so we can reach people from all over Birmingham. For a lot of people they had to choose between buying toothpaste or a loaf of bread. With FareShare, we can make sure they’ve got those shelf staples: pasta, rice, chicken, fruit and veg, tinned food. We also put recipe ideas in the bag and encourage families to share their own recipes. It can be difficult for some families being at home, especially if they’re struggling with things like domestic violence, and cooking can be something to bring people together in a positive way.”

Sarah is also keeping up the fight for food accessibility, using her experiences to help others by volunteering with Family Action’s ‘Food on your Doorstep’ program, a new community larder initiative also partnering with FareShare and run out of Malachi’s community centre: “We want to let people know they’re not alone and that there are people out there who can help them. I’ve been through domestic violence so I know how these things can stack up and impact the rest of your life. I think it’s going to make a big impact, letting people get cheaper food and letting them know that there is help for them.”