A PARTNERSHIP of grassroots community organisations helped more than 1,000 people during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Inclusive Exeter, a community partnership established to give Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in Exeter a greater voice, operated an emergency food project for several months to support people from the BAME community and wider community across Exeter when it was needed.

The Inclusive Exeter Coronavirus Hardship Relief Project involved preparing and delivering free meals to those facing a tough time, as well as translating guidance on self-isolation, social distancing and lockdown in different languages.

At the height of lockdown, four chefs were cooking and freezing meals which were then delivered by up to 15 volunteers on a rota basis, first on a daily basis, then every other day.

In addition, food parcels were put together and delivered to those in need.

Other volunteers were involved in purchasing commodities, packing the food parcels, taking telephone or social media requests,

The project was the inspiration of Mahi Ahmed from Exeter.

The chair and director of the project, he said: "I feel really privileged to be a part of an organisation/project, as a volunteer, that is completely community-led and grassroots.

"The Inclusive Exeter Covid-19 food project had a force of very dedicated volunteers and partner groups from very diverse backgrounds, who have in-depth understanding of the needs in their communities and through the food project they are fulfilling their communities’ needs.

"Inclusive Exeter doesn’t provide service or run activities ’for the people’ - their activities are run by the people from the resilient communities.

"One of the things really highlighted through this project is that there are myths about BAME groups in that they can’t and won’t work together, and that there is a lack of community cohesion among BAME communities.

"The project has proven these are myths, and sets an example in the city that a BAME project could be a real asset for the city who can not only reach out to BAME people – in fact we can reach out and support people from all backgrounds regardless of race, faith, gender, class, age, disability, learning disability and sexuality."

Kate Hannan, secretary and director, added: "This has proved to be a much-needed project with people all across the city who have been affected in so many ways by the outbreak of Covid-19, having been able to access wholesome food.

"We have received many compliments regarding how tasty the meals have been. The project has also brought together a wonderful group of volunteers, all with different skills, using those skills as a team.

"Heartfelt thanks to every one of them, be they shoppers, chefs, drivers, co-ordinators, planners – each has played their part and shown great dedication. It’s been such an honour to work with them."

Director Alan Quick added: "I am really proud to have been part of the team involved in the Inclusive Exeter CIC Coronavirus Hardship Relief Project. In just a short space of time we set up a scheme which has helped so many people in need.

"Our project has delivered many hundred frozen meals, prepared by our chefs, which were then delivered by volunteer drivers right across Exeter.

"On occasion, when there has been an urgent need, we have even delivered as far as Tiverton. Individuals and families have been directly supported when they most need it and we are pleased that we have been able to deliver food to all who have asked for it.

"Referrals have come through statutory channels and from our own publicity on social media and in the press.

"The demand for food cupboard items has also been another successful aspect of the project.

"We must particularly thank Morrisons of Crediton and the charity, FareShare, for supplying food items on a weekly basis. We also thank Crediton Dairy, Exeter Morrisons and Exeter Tesco for also supplying items.

"Hundreds of people and families have been helped and these deliveries of food parcels have proved invaluable to so many people. It is heart-warming that many of those we helped were placing an order once a week to get them through the difficult times. One of our delivery drivers reported that after delivering the food and cupboard items to one person, the recipient burst into tears of joy. It transpired that that person had not eaten that day and was in a desperate situation. It was just one example of how important our service was.

"There are so many people who should be thanked for making the project possible when it was most needed. This includes our sponsors, the volunteer chefs, volunteer delivery drivers, those charities and supermarkets and businesses who gave the food items, which we were then able to distribute.

"Also thanks to those who supplied us with PPE (particularly the Cranbrook Scrubbers) and to our committee and administrator, Exeter City Council Environmental Health department and both Exeter City Council and Devon County Council.

"In addition, we were able to supply food items to many different communities in Exeter with food items including nursing homes, departments at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, doctors’ surgeries, St Matt’s Church, groups from the BAME community and others. I am truly grateful to all those involved because by coming together we have really helped people in our community."