Wolverhampton became the focus of national media attention after it was one of the first places in the country back in March to open a food hub to ensure people who had been asked by the government to shield at home would have access to enough food.
WV Active Aldersley leisure centre was converted into a distribution centre in just a few days and hundreds of council staff were redeployed to work there throughout the crisis.
Since the lockdown, the team has been providing weekly deliveries of essential staples – including bread, pasta, cereals, milk and tinned goods – to people who were not allowed out and had nobody else who could safely drop off supplies.
1.1 million meals have been delivered to residents across the city during the operation – weighing more than 500 tonnes (enough to feed the entire population of Iceland for a whole day).
The government has relaxed shielding measures as of 6 July and announced that shielding will end for most people, apart from those classed as extremely clinically vulnerable (who will continue to receive government support), from 1 August.
The council has written to all households who have been receiving its free food parcels to advise that they can continue to receive supplies until 1 August.
After that date, they will need to make their own arrangements - which could include supermarket deliveries or the council’s Meals on Wheels service.
The operation at WV Active Aldersley is being scaled back and the council has secured an arrangement with private catering firm - MKG Foods - to deliver the free food parcels on its behalf between now and the end of the month for those who still need them.
Councillor Ian Brookfield, leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, has been volunteering at the food hub as a delivery driver throughout the lockdown.
He said: “I am so incredibly proud of everyone at the council who has been involved in our response to the Covid emergency and our food hub in particular which has fed thousands of people who had to shield at home for months during lockdown.
“In all my years in local government I have never witnessed anything like this where the council was so visibly connected to the people of the city at a time of crisis, we all pulled together to turn what had been a leisure centre into a giant food distribution hub in just a few days.
“Staff have been redeployed from across the council to work down there and the dedication and sense of camaraderie amongst the team has been amazing to witness.
“I have had the honour to be a delivery driver taking food parcels out to people each week. Stopping to have a chat with people, checking how they are, bringing them vital supplies and seeing the gratitude and appreciation on their faces is something I will never forget.
“Obviously the government has relaxed shielding restrictions from this week and are pausing it completely from the end of this month and we are winding down the food hub accordingly. We have written to all the recipients of our food parcels to give them the option to carry on receiving them parcels if they need them until the end of the month when shielding ends.
“Aldersley will be handed back to WV Active in the coming days who will work get it back open as soon as possible for the public.”