Over the past year, feelings of isolation and division have become all too common amongst the British public as we adapt to the 'new normal' brought about by the COVID-19 crisis. The sudden changes to our jobs and daily lives - even our national identity - are perhaps no better exemplified than by the closing of our dearly beloved public houses. Coming out of lockdown, our local pubs will be instrumental in re-establishing that national identity and helping to get things back to normal - or as close to normal as possible.
We at City Food Share believe in the power of pubs and the importance of their role in British society - and we believe that, through our Tap & Share campaign, CFS and local pubs can do even more to support their communities.
City Food Share, now in partnership with FareShare Sussex, has been raising funds for local food poverty and homelessness charities in Brighton, Hove and Sussex since 2018. Through our Tap & Share campaign, we provide businesses with electronic donation units that take the place of traditional charity collection boxes, offering a convenient, contactless and COVID safe method of giving. With the help of host partners throughout Sussex, we have been able to raise more than £20,000 for organisations like One Church Brighton, Brighton Food Bank and St. Anne's Day Centre, to name but a few.
City Food Share founder, Adam sat down with Felix Massourri, Manager of the Brighton Beer Dispensary, to discuss the power of pubs, the effect of lockdown on the industry and his experience with food poverty and working with CFS.
What have been your experiences with food poverty?
"I've been in Brighton for over 40 years and homelessness and food poverty has risen considerably. Sure, it's always kind of been there, but now you just notice it everywhere and the original Brightonites are just ashamed. it really is terrible. in the last 40 years Ive just seen it getting worse and worse."
What are your thoughts on how COVID and lockdown have affected food poverty and homelessness?
"I would say it's not just COVID, it's partly to do with the government, they haven't made it easy, they have really dealt with it terribly. In other countries during COVID, there were rent freezes, people who lost their job didn't lose their house, whereas now, there are thousands of people that have lost their house and thousands of people who have lost their jobs and because of that they can't feed their families, they can't feed themselves."
How has COVID affected your business or personal life?
"We are lucky that the owner of the pub owns the building, Southey brewery, they own three pubs, two in London and one down here(Brighton), without the guy owning the building, this place would not have survived. Because of this, as a pub we haven't had to pay any rent so we have been very lucky and I know that there are a lot of small pubs that are just going to fold because the bail out is just not enough. I've been on furlough, not earning as much as before and obviously the pub has been shut. Thankfully, we have been able to stay above water and i have had a lot of support from friends and family."
What have you missed about pubs and other public meeting places during lockdown?
"Meeting friends and family. Pubs generally are a place for people to get together and meet each other and have some fun and take the edge off. If you've been working all week you want to go to the pub and just relax. Some people want to meet up with their mates, have something to eat, have a few beers and generally have a nice time - without that it's been a struggle."
What do you think about the relationship between pubs and our national identity?
"It's a very British thing. its tradition, you go to work Monday to Friday and Friday night you all go to the pub, Saturday you go to the pub and Sunday you go to the pub for lunch. it's always been like that. The pub has been the centre of the community for years. it's a very traditional British thing."
What has been your experience with City Food Share and the Tap & Share campaign?
"We did a post on social media which gained quite a lot of traction and also people that come in ask about it, love the idea and had been donating. Unfortunately, it was brought in just as the lockdown happened, so we haven't had a great run with it because we had to close down for months. I would say that tap and share is easy. It should be a no brainer. You stick it on the bar, there's a sign saying what it is and a stand with more information explaining it all, it's really the best way of donating, you go up to the counter anyway to pay for your drinks, what harm can you do to just tap to give 3 quid or whatever you can to help those in food poverty, it's brilliant. It's the simplest safest way for our customers to donate to an important cause that benefits the whole community. I think all pubs should get involved."