Isolation diary: Receiving a food box from the Government

This week we unexpectedly received an emergency food package from the Government.

My husband is on the extremely vulnerable list, which opens up a number of options for help with shopping. When he initially registered on the Government’s website he did not tick the box which asked whether he needed help with shopping. We were managing to access supplies and had friends and neighbours who had offered to help.

But getting a delivery from a supermarket was still a challenge, and I sometimes spent hours refreshing the screen in the hope of spotting a new delivery slot.  The supermarket sites were saying that they would be contacting people on the Government’s list to offer them priority for deliveries, but that never happened to us.

Then the penny dropped – maybe we needed to tick the box to say that we did need help with shopping. So we did that and very soon we got two different emails offering us priority delivery slots. Then a large box arrived – the Government’s supply – which to be honest, we really didn’t need. So we have donated it to the local food bank via a friend.

We are trying to work out how to continue to get supermarket priority delivery slots, but not the emergency food package, which will now be delivered every week, it seems. The best advice I have been given is to ask the driver to take it back next time and cross us off the local list.

I am not exactly sure who puts these packages together, but I believe that Councils are responsible for co-ordinating them through a local hub. Huge thanks go to everyone involved in providing this valuable service, which is, no doubt, really useful to some people, especially to those not online.

Before I passed the box on to the food bank I did have a good look at the contents. According to the document that came with the box “This package should provide you with sufficient food and household essentials for one week”. It did indeed contain a good variety of items, but it didn’t quite amount to sufficient food for one person. We found rice, pasta, bread, porridge oats, biscuits, a mixture of fresh vegetables and fruit, cans of soup and pasta sauce, plus tea, coffee, toilet rolls and body wash. However, the only sources of protein were long-life milk, baked beans and a small tin of tuna.

I can quite understand the limitations on providing fresh dairy and meat (or vegetarian alternatives) in these packages. However, we should never assume that someone – especially a person with serious health issues – can follow a healthy diet for a week using only the contents of this box.

So if you know someone who is dependent on the Government food boxes whilst being shielded, please check that they really do have enough food, and of the right kind. Offer them some meat, fish, cheese or alternatives.


Please note

We have been in full self-isolation since 16th March to protect my husband whose immune system is compromised.

If you are in self-isolation then join the Lib Dems in self-isolation Facebook group.

You can find my previous Isolation diaries here.


* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames where she is still very active with the local party.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Richard Underhill 9th May '20 - 5:57pm

    The instructions also refer to frozen food, which is not included.
    The driver departed quickly, so we could not speak to him.
    I saw a delivery van, but did not recognise the name on it.
    Great care has been given to risks of allergy and possible religious abstentions.
    We will also be asking volunteers to pass the food to others.
    I blogged on this previously, including a list of the contents, and the lack of prior consultation, but was deleted. An estimate of cost should be published.

  • Paul
    On a visit to China some years ago I was struck by how thin the people were. I was the fat man. When I went to North America it was a different story, some people were huge. I was a thin man.

  • Reduced calorie diets are suppose to extend life, lack of calorie dense sugar and fat filled food probably helped. If you weren’t killed or maimed then the combination of minimal diet and lots of exercise was probably good for the armed forces personnel during the wars, though hardly a way to good health these days. Unfortunately, genetics still play a role so rolling the dice of extreme diet and exercise does not necessary result in looking like you are thirty when you are actually fifty. Still, post Brexit and post virus it would be useful if the govn et al could persuade British farmers to produce healthy food and people to actually buy it (perhaps with more sugar and fat taxes), moving much more towards food self-sufficiency to insulate us from external events, be they viral or climate change related. It is clear that when push comes to shove countries act in a very ill-Liberal manner, putting themselves first.

  • Phil Beesley 11th May '20 - 1:42pm

    Joseph Bourke quoting a description of WWII diet: “People ate a diet much higher in carbohydrates and lower in fats.”

    At start of WWII, it was government policy to turn land over to wheat production, creating an imbalanced farming ecology and economy. Then government determined that people weren’t getting enough animal fat. The UK WWII diet was a combination of agricultural inefficiency and ignorance of human health.

    As I have noted earlier in Mary Reid’s diaries, you don’t need a fridge to look after hard cheese. Hard cheese is old when you buy it and it lasts ages when vacuum packed. Slabs of butter last for ages in a tupperpack box.

    Those food boxes should have had some fat in them. Some meat, for some people?

    As for people living in cramped accommodation who can’t keep their food cool? How about finding them a better home?

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