Food helping to reach families with Portsmouth City Council’s Play Youth and Community

12 February 2021

Portsmouth City Council’s Play Youth and Community (PYC) service have been working with FareShare to help provide food to children and families across the community for over three years. PYC works with children from 6-19 and their families at six adventure playgrounds and over a dozen youth and community clubs across Portsmouth.

Always a stew or soup for people struggling

Before the coronavirus lockdowns, hot food was a staple of the children’s day. “We’d pretty much always have the slow cooker going, especially in the winter” remembers Kylie Brackstone, Playground Manager at Somerstown Adventure Playground, “always a stew or a soup. Our approach is always very informal, easy access, the children and their parents would know they could help themselves whenever they liked. People then felt secure enough to kind of say ‘I’m struggling this month’ and we could put together a little box for them.”

“We liked that FareShare was stopping food going to landfill,” Kylie adds, “I think that was just a really positive message for the kids and their families. And then that let us help them more with a bit of food security. Just knowing that it was a part of something positive, that meant they didn’t have to worry about stigma or feeling embarrassed. It really helps people open up.”

Though they do add in the occasional treat, nutrition is a top priority: “We go a bit more for the healthy food,” confirms Holly Easlick, Health Development Officer for the council, “we’re here to help people learn and grow, and healthy food is a big part of that. With the FareShare deliveries we get lots of fresh fruit and veg, meat, tins. Having access to good nutrition, we know how important it is to their mood, their development, helping them focus and learn in school. I think the variety has helped with how they eat at home as well, getting them to try these wonderful new things and making food part of the adventure.”

Food hampers opening a gateway for more support

Though PYC’s kitchens have had to close during the Covid-19 crisis, they’re still helping families in need. Since April PYC has provided over 800 food hampers to families across Portsmouth: “We were able to get them meat, fruit, vegetables, yogurt, and shelf-stable food,” says Holly, “So the families can take that home and have that little bit of food security. During the first lockdown FareShare were able to deliver us more food than ever so we were able to get it out to the families who needed it.”

“With Covid-19, the food was a big thing to help us continue our interaction with the families,” adds Kylie. “We see a lot of vulnerable families, families that struggle with food provision, there are people truly in need. But it’s not only about families who desperately needed the food, it’s that weekly interaction. A lot of our families struggle with mental health, so that idea that they knew they could come down every week and get a food package, and also see us, talk to us was one of the most important things. Even though it was just kind of over the gate, we were able to have a conversation and it was a way in to see if there were other ways they were struggling and we could support them.”

As Holly puts it: “The food became like a vehicle for opening up conversations about what else might be going on.”