A Bury-based charity has taken a unique and innovative approach to help reduce loneliness and isolation among the town’s BAME community during lockdown, by providing local people with traditional, ethnic, hot meals thanks to Bury’s first halal Fusion Foodbank.

Bury Asian Women’s Centre now offers the local community a taste of home thanks to their food delivery service, which provides culturally appropriate meals for members of the BAME community, providing comfort and helping to reduce feelings of loneliness. The group recently received more than £9,000 from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, to set up the Fusion Foodbank and create a befriending service to keep people connected and less isolated whilst social distancing. 

Despite there being around 20 foodbanks in Bury providing vital help to local people, none of them cater to the local BAME community that make up 4.5% of the population. Much of the food available from regular foodbanks in the area is prohibited within certain religious practices and cultures, so the Fusion Foodbank is unique in ensuring all food delivered is halal, kosher or vegetarian. 

The charity’s culinary concoctions are the brainchild of community director, Ayesha Arif. An avid cook, Ayesha saw that many of the families were struggling during the lockdown due to job losses and the reduction in much-needed services. 

Prior to the coronavirus crisis, Ayesha helped BAME families in the area with a hot meal service, however since lockdown she has decided to incorporate it into the charity’s day-to-day work. The Fusion Foodbank, which has only been running for one month, has already seen the number of families signing up to the hot meal delivery service more than double. Starting with just 20 families initially, the charity now provides meals to 55 families in the town with referrals coming in almost daily. 

Ayesha Arif, Community Director, at Bury Asian Women’s Centre said: “Being the first halal Fusion Foodbank, we have highlighted the issues and created awareness to other groups that there are gaps in services and that the BAME community is struggling. This service is used by widowers, people with health issues and disabilities or families who are financially vulnerable. Some people can’t cook due to being isolated, or do not have any money to cook a nutritional meal. By providing this service we are making sure that they have nutritional meals and stay healthy. Thanks to The National Lottery Community Fund we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

As well as hot food, the charity provides parcels for local people that include feminine hygiene products, cooking oil, sweets, pasta and a range of delicacies for people from different ethnic backgrounds. The charity also offers a wide range of services to help the community during lockdown which includes Zoom exercise classes, assistance with job applications and much more.

Duncan Nicholson, Head of Funding for North West, at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, we are able to fund thousands of projects working in many different ways to help reduce loneliness and isolation in the UK. As we all adapt to profound changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling stigma around loneliness and making it okay to ask for help are more important than ever.

“Loneliness is affecting people from all walks of life while we are physically apart in these difficult times. The incredible groups we fund are a powerful force for good – supporting people to connect, reducing feelings of isolation and helping communities come together in new and inspiring ways.” 

The new National Lottery funding is being announced during Loneliness Awareness Week (15 – 19 June), an annual event to raise awareness of loneliness, break the stigma attached to it and encourage people to speak about the issue openly.

Thanks to National Lottery players, almost £6 million of National Lottery funding has gone to more than 400 projects tackling loneliness and social isolation across England since the lockdown began, enabling them to provide people with much-needed support. 

Going forward, The National Lottery Community Fund will continue to prioritise getting funding to groups best placed to support their communities at this vital time and also towards those seeking to rebuild as the crisis abates. 

The National Lottery Community Fund distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes. Last year it awarded over half a billion pounds (£511.1 million) of life-changing funding to communities across the UK and supported over 12,000 projects to turn their great ideas into reality. 90% of the grants it makes are for under £10,000 – going to grassroots groups and charities across the UK that are bringing to life amazing ideas that matter to their communities.


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