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No-deal Brexit planning helps Shetland Island Council’s Food Group win award for helping those in need

Shetland Islands Council HQ.
Shetland Islands Council HQ.

A Northern Isles council has won a national award for its collaboration to provide food to those in need in the community.

Shetland Islands Council’s Food Group won the award for Outstanding Collaboration and Local Authority Innovation at the annual conference of Assist Facilities Management in Glasgow earlier this week.

The group’s work sees several council services and local agencies source and distribute food to families on low incomes, as well supporting families to cook healthy meals and encouraging local growing projects.

The Food Group, which originated from the island’s plans in case of a no-deal Brexit, includes representatives from the council’s social work, schools’ catering and cleaning, criminal justice, youth services and the Anchor Early Action project.

At that time, charity FairShare was also providing food supplies to Shetland, redistributed from the food industry to community groups.

Working together

Local relationships built during this time continued during the Covid-19 pandemic in order to coordinate Scottish Government grant funding and to deliver shielding parcels using local suppliers.

It became clear the partnerships formed for community food provision had longer term benefits in order to find funds to purchase food supplies and to store and deliver food in the community to those in need.

Neil Beattie and Victor Nicoara at the awards ceremony.

Food larders were then set up in some schools to make food accessible to vulnerable families, which was supported by the council’s social work department and the Anchor project.

This success led to a wider distribution network to provide food to more locations, which saw a peak in 2021 of around 80 families, with over 150 children supported during the pandemic.

This support has continued, with the Anchor team now also sourcing second-hand clothing for families who need them.

Work is also underway to establish after school food clubs for young people and parents to learn about healthy eating and cooking within a budget.

Council’s efforts recognised

Director of Shetland Island Council’s children’s services, Helen Budge, said: “I’m delighted that the council’s efforts for this project have been recognised with this Assist FM award.

“We’ve provided food and other forms of support to many families and individuals who have needed help during the pandemic and that will continue wherever necessary. The collaborative teamwork by our staff and other local partners has made this possible.

“The Food Group is working on how to keep this project going in future, coming up with innovative solutions for local issues.”

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