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How cyclists are helping get food to the needy during the pandemic

Initiatives in London and Exeter are among those seeing volunteers take to two wheels to help the vulnerable

Cyclists are helping get food to poor, elderly and vulnerable Londoners during the coronavirus crisis as part of an initiative run by the Evening Standard newspaper in partnership with charity The Felix Project – and similar schemes are also popping up elsewhere across the country.

In the east of the capital, in one borough alone 50 cyclists are helping the Made In Hackney Project deliver hundreds of meals a day to people who are unable to go shopping themselves, or who find themselves in desperate financial circumstances.

Besides helping with the Food For London Now initiative from the Evening Standard (donate here), The Felix Project is also working on sister newspaper The Independent’s Help The Hungry campaign.

One cyclist who is riding five days a week for Made In Hackney, Patrick Williams, told the Evening Standard: “I decided I had to get involved to help others who are really up against it – I wanted to do my bit.

“It was pretty shocking at first to see how much people are struggling – you see kids waiting at the window or the door for their food.

“We know in some cases it’s their only main meal for the day and they’re not able to get much else.”

He added: “I am seeing some scared elderly people on their own, so if I speak to them from the pavement, I’m just trying to reassure them and keep their spirits up.”

People riding to help out with the campaign include those like Mr Williams, a musician, who are unable to work during the lockdown, and others who have been furloughed by the companies they work for.

The Felix Project sources produce that would otherwise go to waste, including fresh fruit and vegetables from restaurants, shops and wholesalers.

The charity is working with almost 300 local organisations across the city, including food banks, to help get the food to those who most need it.

Made In Hackney’s co-founder Sarah Bentley explained that once the country went into lockdown, its staff drew up a list of 420 families and individuals within the borough most in need of food each day.

It drops off vegan meals to them between 2pm and 6pm each day.

 She said: “We knew there was going to be this incredible level of need out there, so we ripped up our job descriptions and threw ourselves into this work.

“It’s been pretty emotional at times, pretty intense to see what people are going through. We want to be able to help more people if we possibly can.”

Meanwhile, in Exeter, community group Freemoovement, which runs outdoor activities in parks and other public spaces, has switched its focus to delivering food and other essential supplied to the city’s homeless and other people in need.

Volunteers use their daily exercise session to deliver food and other urgent supplies by bike to around 150 people.

Freemoovement founder and director Paul Mouland, who said that more volunteers are needed, told Radio Exe: “Because we are no longer allowed to deliver our fitness activities in the local parks and people still wanted to be active, we decided to switch the activity from fitness classes to cycling food and essential products to those in need.”

“We have many volunteers that are keen to keep doing this as long as it is needed. It’s hard to say how many people we will end up delivering to, but I would expect the number to rise week by week as the hardship associated with the coronavirus kicks in.”

Let us know in the comments of any similar initiatives you are aware of elsewhere in the country.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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