As the days get shorter and the leaves start to fall, it’s hard to comprehend how much has happened in the last few months. Aside from everything around us turning on its head, we at Veg Box People have seen a huge amount change.
Back in March, as the country was plunged into lockdown, we watched as most of our collection points closed with next-to-no notice. It was the first of the many challenges that we had to overcome at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. We spent hours and hours on the phone to our customers in order to figure out how we could continue to get veg to them. With the help of many of our wonderful collection points, an army of volunteers and the hard work of our team, we managed to stay afloat and continued to deliver local, organic produce.
The end of March and start of April were tricky, navigating new safety measures in how we packed; adapting to the ever changing collection point situations; and getting veg to our customers who had to self isolate or suddenly work hundreds more hours as key workers. Thanks to our lovely customers who mucked in to make this possible, it was very gratefully received support (both from us and from those continuing to get their veg!).
Alongside this however, we experienced a huge influx in customer sign ups. As the shelves were emptied of pasta and toilet roll, people looked locally for reliable places to get provisions. It was wonderful to see people put their trust in us, but it was a little overwhelming, and we started a waiting list to help manage demand. Despite this our tiny team packed and delivered more than 400 veg bags for several weeks during the summer.
Additionally the last few months have seen big changes in our little team. We said sad goodbyes to our wonderful team members Sarah and Lyndsey, but a happy hello to new team member Alex who we got to know through her internship with us through the University of Manchester.
On top of the team changes, we also moved! For years we had been based at the New Smithfield Market but we can now be found at Wilson’s Park in Monsall. It was a very busy and tiring few days but we are now fully settled in and enjoying the huge amount of space. It's staggering how quickly you can adapt to the creature comforts of a kitchen and a sofa. It is also a new collection point, so please come by to collect your veg and say hello.
At more than double the size of our previous unit, our new home has been pretty essential for the current situation - both the increase in customer numbers and the socially distant veg bag packing. This and the other additional work resulting from locking down (and relaxing and relocking) has been made possible with support from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Covid-19 Action Fund and Farming the Future’s Emergency Response Fund. So a really huge thank you from all of us to both of them!
It is fair to say that the last few months have been tiring. However, if it weren’t for the challenges, we would not be as resilient as we are today. We are packing more bags than ever, and delivering to new places around the city. The pandemic has tested everyone, but the fact that we have managed to adapt and are still going strong goes to show that local and co-operative are truly the way forward. We’re ready for what the next few months will bring.