Lucy Parish is the Chief Executive Officer of The Feed, a social enterprise with a mission to motivate change in people to prevent poverty, hunger and homelessness in Norwich. Here, she explains why she’s super excited about its latest project, the social supermarket
My life has been both brilliant and challenging so far but either way, it has led me to exactly where and who I was meant to be. After some difficult times, I changed my mindset to see challenges as opportunities and that makes all the difference!
What led you to becoming CEO of The Feed and what appealed to you most about the organisation? What were you doing before?
Before I joined The Feed in 2018, I was working for a firm of financial planners and accountants. My background has always been corporate, first mortgage advice and then accountancy. I have always enjoyed working in a role that helps people achieve something they need. In 2018, I was approaching 40 and it occurred to me that I needed my hard work to mean more. In a serendipitous moment, I decided to go and see a friend one lunchtime, who was a recruitment consultant. I told him I needed a new challenge, that I wasn’t restricting it to one thing and for him to see what he could come up with! I left and the person who walked in to see him after me, was the previous CEO of The Feed. He was looking for a ‘Corporate Fundraiser’ and that suited my skills perfectly. Within a week, I had been interviewed for, and offered, the job. It was a bit of a leap of faith to be honest and I’m so glad I took it. Shortly after, the CEO told me he was leaving in six months’ time and, by then, I knew The Feed had so much potential and so I made a proposition to the board that I stand in as interim Manager. I was appointed CEO in July 2020 and I have been absolutely loving it since the moment I joined.
How have the events of the past two years affected The Feed’s work?
I can honestly say that whilst the last two years has been a huge challenge, it’s also been incredible. We have had to adapt and change our services so much. In the first lockdown, we had to close our café and catering enterprise, which meant that our income stopped overnight. Instead, we were commissioned to provide food parcels to people who had been placed into temporary accommodation because of the Everyone In instruction given by the government. We provided over 4500 food parcels in that time and, as a result, our visibility grew, and people began to learn more about The Feed and the support we give to people.
The additional funding we received in that time gave us stability and has enabled us to grow as an organisation. In 2021 we went from one premises to for! And we have two more opening this spring. Our staff team has grown from 11 to 40 in 12 months. It’s so exciting to see such growth and the possibilities this gives us to support more people.
Has it brought into sharp focus the need to help prevent poverty, hunger and homelessness?
For us the focus was always there. This was our mission before the pandemic. Norwich has such high levels of inequality and low social mobility, which means that people who are living in poverty are unlikely to come out of it. It’s a fine city for sure but not without its problems. Everything we do works towards our vision of communities free from poverty. Our focus is empowering people to make changes, so that they are able to move forward into becoming self-sustaining. Whether that’s by coming on one of our employment projects, or by using our Community Fridge and the support that goes along with it to help people to move out of food poverty.
It’s gone well at both. Waterloo is a popular choice for families, especially at the weekends! We’re excited about the spring and summer months when we will be holding special events and evenings.
You also launched Nourish in May – how is that going?
Nourish is our indoor evening food provision for people who are sleeping rough and in temporary accommodation. Since launching in April 2021 we have served up 1500 meals. This has meant that 156 individuals have benefited from having a hot meal, indoors in a safe and supportive environment.
What are your 2022 goals for The Feed?
Last year was about growing the business to generate income so that we can fund our support work. This year we have a very strong focus on growing the impact that we make in the community. This means supporting more people into employment by teaching new skills, increasing people’s confidence and motivation.
I am also super excited about a brand-new project. In April we are opening a Social Supermarket, community kitchen and café on Hall Road, which will focus on the prevention of food poverty in Norwich and the prevention of emergency food provision. People will be able to access affordable food (75% cheaper than in the supermarket) as a longer-term solution. We will also run workshops and drop ins with within the community café so that people can be supported to deal with the underlying causes of food poverty to help them to move forward. We will also be running cooking workshops to teach people the basics of how to prepare healthy and affordable meals.
How can people get involved and help?
We are always looking for volunteers at The Feed to help us achieve our mission. We will need lots of help, in particular with the Social Supermarket, so if you would like to help to make a difference in your community then please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org. Who knows where it might lead? Take a leap of faith like I did!
Featured image of Lucy Parish by chrisridley.co.uk