Emergency food hub set up in East Brighton the day after lockdown has delivered 70,000 free meals

An amazing team of volunteers, including Buddy the horse, has helped an emergency food hub make and deliver free meals to people all over the city – and they have no plans to stop yet.

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 9:33 am
Bryan Coyle outside the Bristol Estate Community Room last March

One year on and a team of 50 volunteers, working with the East Brighton Food Co-operative, now cook and deliver 230 meals a day.

When the first national coronavirus lockdown was announced last March, Bryan Coyle was worried about his elderly neighbours on the Bristol Estate where he lives in East Brighton.

Concerned those told to stay at home would find it hard to get food, Bryan wanted to help.

Bryan Coyle and the team's special volunteer Buddy the horse, ready to make the next delivery

Bryan had set up the East Brighton Food Co-operative in March 2019 but most of its workshops and classes had been cancelled due to the pandemic. And so he set about adapting the community organisation and quickly had the keys to the Bristol Estate Community Rooms where he opened a kitchen on March 24, the day after lockdown started.

Within one week, the volunteers who stepped in to help were making and delivery 50 meals per day, and so Bryan opened a second kitchen, at the Robert Lodge Community Rooms, in Whitehawk.

A year on and the emergency food hub and kitchens have delivered an incredible 70,000 free meals, all made with surplus food and donations.

Bryan said: “When we set it up, we just asked the ladies on the Bristol Estate if they needed any help. Then it just snowballed.

Some of the amazing volunteers who have helped cook and deliver more than 70,000 free meals.

“At our peak in lockdown we were delivering 180 meals a day, we’re doing 230 a day now. I thought we would just be helping to feed the elderly but it’s the whole demographic, families, disabled people. We now have about 50 volunteers, working three different shifts. We have volunteers all over and we are delivering as far as Hangleton.”

Those brilliant volunteers include Buddy the horse, which has been part of the team from the start, helping to deliver flyers and bringing a smile to faces when helping to deliver the food.

There has also been huge support from local businesses, restaurants, suppliers, wholesalers and community groups, all working together to make a difference.

Bryan said: “It’s very emotional, sometimes you feel like crying. I had the idea but it’s been about everyone helping each other, it has been amazing and really satisfying.”

Here to stay

Although lockdown is starting to ease, Bryan said the meal delivery service was ‘here to stay’ and, in fact, Bryan wants to do even more.

Bryan wants to expand the help the group can offer and has some ambitious ideas, which in a similar fashion to his hub and kitchen set up, are moving at pace already.

He said: “We are hoping to sign a lease for a community hall so we can run cookery classes for everyone.

“We also hope to have a commercial venue like a café to help pay for the community work. We’re looking for a premises now.”

Bryan is also keen to set up lunch clubs and is liaising with local schools about using their buses for transport.

Bryan, 49, had previously worked as a food supplier for hotels and, before lockdown, had sold seasonal produce at events and exhibitions like the Ideal Home Show, work which ground to a halt during lockdown.

Bryan is keen to share his knowledge to help the younger generation, especially in East Brighton where he said around 60 per cent of children leave schools without any qualifications. As well as the cookery classes, he hopes to run an Easter event focusing on the seed to plate process.

*At the weekend, the team delivered 2,500 loaves of bread after being part of a 24-hour bake-athon with The Institute of Development Studies and caterer Thomas Franks.

Events and how to help

Keep an eye on the East Brighton Food Co-operative Facebook page or website for more information on the new projects and events.

To place an order for a meal, people can email [email protected] Anyone who would like to volunteer for cooking, delivering or admin, should contact the team on Facebook messenger or email [email protected]