All of the challenges that affected caterers during the Covid-19 pandemic, were also visited on the supply chain. Work practices had to change overnight to accommodate social distancing, extra focus was suddenly needed on sanitising hands and equipment, staff sickness rates rose, while social isolation became necessary for others. And, of course, their own supply chains were disrupted in turn.
Despite this, Bidfood and Brakes, normally competitors in the marketplace, put aside rivalries to make a joint effort to help up to 1.5m vulnerable people.
Working together to support a government initiative to ensure that vital food supplies reached the country’s most vulnerable people during the coronavirus crisis, the two companies deliver hundreds of thousands of weekly care packages across the country to people at high risk from the virus who were unable to get easy access to food during very challenging times.
The parcels, which were delivered to the doorstep, contained more than 20 essentials including pasta, cereal, tea bags, fresh and tinned fruit, milk, bread and biscuits, as well as non-food items like toilet rolls and shower gel.
In a joint statement, chief executives Hugo Mahoney and Andrew Selley, of Brakes and Bidfood respectively, said at the time: “Moving at record pace, we have worked with government departments to create a service capable of reaching every corner of England through our national depot networks.
“Our security-checked, professional delivery drivers are hugely motivated and proud to be playing their part in serving their local communities in this fantastic endeavour.”
Environment Secretary George Eustice paid tribute to their efforts: “I want to thank all those involved at Brakes and Bidfood for the sterling work they have done to get food to the most vulnerable people in our society.
“Together they have packed and delivered 4.7 million food parcels across England – a truly outstanding effort in such a short space of time.”
A further 800,000 were delivered in Scotland as part of an operation involving more than 3,000 employees from Bidfood and Brakes, a mobilisation described as the largest effort to feed the nation since the Second World War.
Both Bidfood and Brakes received an ‘overwhelming number’ of thank you messages from grateful recipients of the free weekly boxes.
In a joint statement, Alex Mayfield, Director of Supply Chain and Operations at Brakes, and Jim Gouldie, Supply Chain and Technical Services Director, Bidfood, said: “The number of calls, letters and messages on social media that we’ve received have been amazing.
“Our drivers have heard first-hand how these boxes have been a lifeline for the clinically extremely vulnerable receiving them throughout lockdown and we’re delighted to have been able to be a part of such a critical programme.”