Since the Covid-19 crisis began, more people are choosing to support small-scale food producers and local food businesses. Under these circumstances, we have received more than triple our usual number of orders per week – and there is demand for more!
Above all, it was vital to adapt to new ways of working which ensure the safety of our customers, workers and volunteers. This has been a challenge whilst we are juggling such a massive increase in sales. As a result, it may take us a whole week to recover from the week before, but we are doing well – which is a testament to our brilliant team.
As a not-for-profit, our main motivation is to build a resilient local food economy and support vulnerable people. It is very important for us to make the changes needed to keep people safe and with access to food. One measure we implemented is a priority list to ensure we can supply food to customers who are over 70 and those who fall into vulnerable groups. This gives those in need access to a priority shopping window for 24 hours before we open the shop to everybody. It’s been great to get so much positive feedback.
If we don’t have an order from someone on the priority list, we ring them to remind them. A lot of our more vulnerable customers are frightened and they really appreciate this personal touch. This is the first time people have been scared there may not be enough food to buy and they are realising the role we can play. Our customers have been saying “I’m desperate and I can’t get a supermarket slot. So I’m realising how important local purchasing is. I hope you are supported after this.”
In addition to helping our customers, it’s great to be such a valuable resource for producers as well. They can dip in and dip out in a way which works for their businesses. As a flexible outlet, we have been a life-line for those who were reliant on hotels, restaurants and events to sell their produce. For example, we are now working with a new coffee roaster and retailer who planned to sell at events. These were all cancelled due to the pandemic, so it has been really fortunate their sales through us have been really good.
We are constantly finding new ways of working. For example, after losing their hotel and restaurant sales, our cheesemonger was needing to find alternative work for his delivery drivers. We put him in touch with a micro-dairy as we knew their round was increasing in the hope they could work together. Without a doubt this crisis has highlighted the importance of supportive local networks and it has brought us much closer to our local community.
On a final note, we have been really grateful for the support we have received – even Plymouth Raiders Basketball Club have helped us with home deliveries! With everything considered, it’s been wonderful to see so much kindness and community spirit in the face of crisis.