The West Lothian Food Network (WLFN) was formed in May 2020 to support households experiencing food insecurity. Funding was secured from West Lothian Council to support the development of WLFN through the provision of a co-ordinator and to develop an annual food action plan. West Lothian Food Bank was appointed as the co-ordinator of the Network with the aim of reducing the number of households experiencing food insecurity and reducing the amount of food waste going to landfill.
Over the past year, WLFN has grown from 26 to 38 community food providers covering all nine wards within the council area; this includes the development of seven new community food pantries and one new community fridge.
WLFN has created a centralised food hub where food from Fareshare, local community food growers and over 30 local businesses has been donated. The food is a mixture of ambient, fresh and frozen and includes diary, baked goods, meat, fish, vegetables and fruit. The warehouse space has been tripled to support this development and there are four vans delivering food to community food providers and to service users throughout the week. 127T of surplus food has been diverted from going to landfill. The network purchases food from local businesses which has, in turn, supported them to be able to bring back staff from furlough.
WLFN has secured funding of £470K to support 4,092 people each week to access food parcels, cooked meals, community pantries and community fridges. Of those experiencing food insecurity: 77% was due to financial issues, 11% due to being vulnerable through ill health/shielding, 11% through being marginalised through domestic violence/mental health/homelessness/addiction and 1% who had COVID symptoms. Those accessing the network have their dietary and cultural needs catered for and also have access to baby goods, toiletries, cleaning and sanitary products.
A core element of delivery is to embed the Food with Dignity principles seeking the views of those who access the services to help shape delivery. All of the organisations which are part of the network refer customers to welfare advice and are part of the On-line Tracking and Referral system to ensure that referrals are made quickly, securely and effectively to a range of local support and help. WLFN was a finalist in the Third Sector Partnership Category of the 2020 Public Service Awards.