Covid-19: A timeline of local need and our response 

March – a huge surge in people needing food
  • Many people lost jobs at the start of lockdown, especially those in casual work in the hospitality and travel sectors, and needed food as they waited for Universal Credit payments.
  • There was general panic and shortages of groceries in shops.
  • As schools shut, those families whose children who would normally get free school meals were getting nothing towards feeding them at home.

Reach had to close our offices and Resource Centre but reorganised to work from home. Local people in need could instead phone us for help with food parcels (which we delivered) and debt.

We contacted all those organisations who would normally refer people to us, and also all the new Covid-19 volunteer groups that were springing up, to tell them we were still operating and that they could refer people in need to us for support.

We had a massive surge in requests for food parcels – we fed 173% more children and 17% more adults than in March 2019.

Your generosity and support ensured that nobody went hungry.

April/May – other initiatives spring up to help ease the burden


  • The government significantly increased the value of Universal Credit until April next year.
  • They began giving families whose children who would normally have had free school meals  £15 per child per week. Thanks to Marcus Rashford’s recent campaign, this scheme has now been extended to cover the summer holidays.
  • Mortgage and credit card companies offered ‘repayment holidays’, and a hold was put on evictions of those who were behind on rent.
  • 25% of the UK’s workforce was furloughed, but are currently receiving up to 80% of their salary from the government scheme.


  • Haverhill’s Samuel Ward Academy set up a school foodbank to assist families who were waiting for the child food voucher scheme to kick in.
  • Temporary new foodbanks and Covid-19 volunteer groups sprang up in surrounding villages.
  • West Suffolk Council say that, after the initial panic, people have generally been well looked after by neighbours, family and volunteers.

Consequently, Reach saw a fall in demand for food. But that’s very temporary – it’s the calm before the storm. And the storm is already approaching.


Summer and Autumn: Deep recession, high unemployment and debt

As lockdown ends, volunteers are returning to work and temporary foodbanks in outlying villages are closing. Reach is taking over this support, taking requests for food parcels by phone and delivering, plus continuing to provide debt advice and other support by phone.

But the far bigger issue will be personal debt on an unprecedented scale.

Furlough payments are reducing soon and the scheme ends in October. Forecasts are that unemployment will rise to levels not seen since the 1980s. The Bank of England has forecast the deepest recession for 300 years.

If you’re affected – please, please call us on 01440 712950 or email us – We’re here to help YOU.