Civic Enterprise Leeds (CEL) reducing food poverty and working with third sector


To manage/limit the impact of lockdown and school closures caused by Covid-19 on vulnerable people in Leeds in relation to food poverty. Catering Leeds provided over 450,000 meals from March 2020 to July 2020, with 2,980 children supported during school holidays with free meals, ensuring vulnerable young people in Leeds did not go without.


As the Covid-19 pandemic hit, it was clear that the impact of lockdown and school closures would have a very real impact in relation to food poverty. Civic Enterprise Leeds (CEL) have existing relationships with schools and third party organisations and we have worked consistently to support as many people within Leeds as possible as part of being a compassionate and child friendly city. 

What has been delivered?

Building on existing relationships with schools across the city where we provide catering provision for school meals and working closely with the council’s children’s services and communities and environments teams over the past 12 months we have delivered the following:

  • Catering Leeds adapted school meal provision during the initial school lockdown to support free school meal (FSM) eligible children with food hampers in the absence of a government scheme and provided adapted in-school catering for the children of key workers or those deemed vulnerable. This provided over 450,000 meals from March 2020 to July 2020. Once schools returned, this was also embedded for FSM pupils impacted by collapsing bubbles, ensuring vulnerable children did not go without. During the second school lockdown, when an alternate voucher scheme was in place, we provided 132,000 meals for FSM pupils who were at home and we continued to support key worker and vulnerable children, however provision at that point was much more of a standard ‘school meals’ approach.
  • Establishing a Christmas hamper programme using the Winter Grant. This provided a two-week food hamper for Christmas 2020, delivered directly to the homes of pupils eligible for free school meals. This was a successful partnership with LCC, ASDA and DPD.  In total 13,000 hampers were delivered to the homes of FSM eligible pupils, 6,000 hampers went to families living in poverty via community groups, residual long-life stock went to ‘Re-think’ to distribute during January and February and surplus fresh stock (bread, apples and potatoes) went to other community groups and food banks.
  • The healthy holiday’s scheme was managed differently during 2020/21 due to the pandemic, with hampers being delivered to home addresses of children involved. This saw 2,980 children supported during school holidays and over 16,500 meals provided by Catering Leeds.
  • Directly supported a number of groups targeting the homeless which included: provision of over 4,000 sandwiches to St George’s Crypt as a result of their partial closedown, 1,500 meals to the Beeston Homeless Shelter and 576 sandwiches for Dewsbury Homeless.
  • Supported community and charity groups who have been undertaking emergency feeding. Over 5,000 sandwiches were provided plus other items such as fresh fruit and milk.
  • Supported religious groups who have been carrying out emergency feeding within their community. Over 1,700 sandwiches were provided plus other items of fresh fruit and milk.
  • Supported a school who had received donated produce to be able to unload donated items and distribute to families living in poverty within Seacroft.
  • Worked with Fareshare, providing a driver plus a loaned vehicle from one of our supplier partners to support food distribution to vulnerable families
  • Cleaning Services arranged for additional meals to be delivered to homes of vulnerable adults and to the homeless within temporary accommodation.
  • Leeds Building Service supported a range of citywide activities during the pandemic, such as undertaking essential deliveries for a Covid-19 foodbank.

What was the impact/next steps?

These efforts helped to protect some of our most vulnerable during the past year and as well as helping individuals, strengthening client and partner relationships as a key welfare service provider for the city.