Students’ Union opens doors to food distribution centre providing vital service to communities in need

A food distribution service providing vital supplies to communities in need across Birmingham during the COVID-19 pandemic has relocated to Aston University Students’ Union building while its doors are closed to students.

The service, coordinated by The Active Wellbeing Society (TAWS), along with The Real Junk Food Project and supported by food charity FareShare and Birmingham City Council, was until recently operating from Ladywood Community Centre.

When the country first went into lockdown, Aston University started a volunteer support group to help students living in accommodation in the city, in particular those from overseas who might not have known how to reach out for help if they needed it.

As the number of volunteers grew, the group realised it could help on a much wider scale, so offered its services out through a number of COVID-19 Facebook groups in Birmingham. When The Active Wellbeing Society got in touch, the University agreed to offer space in its students’ union building as a new location for the distribution centre.

The initiative is part of #BrumTogether, a network of more than 60 partners working together to provide those most in need with essential support and services. This includes coordinating deliveries of food parcels, hot meals, hygiene products, baby supplies and children’s activity packs to families.

As of 17 May, 21,814 food parcels, 6,836 cooked meals, 1,371 dedicated hours of phone support and 9,303 phone calls have been managed by #BrumTogether. The distribution centre has also provided partners with 458 bulk food orders which have also led to 7000 weekly food parcels.

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Ellie Chambers, vice president welfare at Aston University Students’ Union, said:

“When we were approached about the project, we knew we wanted to help out in some way and this was an initiative that not only benefited our own students but also the wider Birmingham community.

“We have an amazing building in the heart of the city and it was a perfect opportunity to put it to good use during these testing times.”

Saskia Hansen, deputy vice-chancellor engagement at Aston University said:

“We are delighted that we have been able to provide support for such a much-needed service for the city. We now have over 200 staff and student volunteers supporting local projects and helping to run the distribution centre. We are so proud that our Aston community is making a difference to residents across Birmingham.”

Karen Creavin, chief executive of The Active Wellbeing Society, said:

“Access to Aston University enables us to handle the large volume of food coming in every week and also to process donated food already in the system. These premises enable food to go out to people most in need in the safest and most efficient manner.”

“Partners like The Real Junk Food Project, FareShare and an amazing collaboration of faith groups, together with the Active Wellbeing Society, are all working together with a whole load of fantastic volunteers to get food out to the city through to the foodbanks or directly to individuals.

“It’s a tremendous collaboration between different organisations in the city.”

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Laura Spencer, development manager for FareShare Midlands’ Birmingham centre said:

“Since the lockdown began FareShare has doubled the volume of food distributed to frontline charities, and the number of charities joining our waiting list to receive food has tripled. When The Active Wellbeing Society began discussions on how to respond to the need in Birmingham it made perfect sense to offer our support.

“With funding from Birmingham City Council and access to surplus food from the food industry we’ve been able to supply 280 tonnes of food already, and are inspired by the dedication of the partners and volunteers working tirelessly each day to make sure this food gets to people who need it.”


About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long established university led by its three main beneficiaries – students, business and the professions, and our region and society. Aston University is located in Birmingham and at the heart of a vibrant city and the campus houses all the university’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Alec Cameron is the Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive.

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