CLOSE to 800 homes have received substantial food and household cleaning items, as seven food banks were activated across TT.
The initiative, which began on May 1, is a collaborative effort between BPTT and The Rose Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation, established since 1991.
In a media release, BPTT's regional president Claire Fitzpatrick said the company recognised that it is "critical" to extend support.
As such, BPTT formalised the "covid19 response fund" of $1 million and partnered with the foundation to disburse the funds, establish and manage the food banks.
A hotline that was established for registrations has had close to 100 calls per day and over 1,200 applications. However, the foundation's focus was to identify and assist those who were unable to access government assistance or support from other agencies.
The aim is to afford the most vulnerable "faster access to these services."
Additionally, grant funding was offered to like-minded, registered non-government and community based organisations (CBO). So far, ten organisations has been short-listed, with five in Trinidad and five in Tobago
Most Vulnerable a Priority
Sterling and Marcia Belgrove, directors of the foundation, are focused on getting the help to those who truly need it. During a recent interview at a warehouse in Arima, Belgrove said they are giving priority to families that are yet to receive any form of assistance and not in receipt of social services grants or access to the supplemental TT food card.
"We have seen poverty on so many different levels, to the level of abject poverty. We are giving priority to the workers who lived pay check to pay check, who had no savings and no safety net when this health crisis caused work restrictions. Persons who already receive grants still have something to look forward too. There are persons, families out there that have no food, no means and in some cases have lost hope," said Belgrove, shaking his head.
Among items in the hampers are a 25-pound bag of flour and a large bottle of bleach.
While he spoke, volunteers were loading trucks to take sorted goods to the various banks located in Moruga, Debe/Penal, central, San Fernando, Diego Martin, Mayaro, Arima and Tobago. All distributions were done at the district food banks and by appointment only.
Most cases, Belgrove said, are referred to the relevant government agencies and ministries.
"In some cases, we want to do more, but our hands are tied as you can only do so much with limited resources. We do referrals and monitor that the persons and families do get the help they are in dire need of," he added.
Additionally, he said, CBOs and NPOs can also access grants to facilitate ongoing programmes during the coronavirus pandemic.
More than just feeding others
One of the foundation's ongoing programmes, Beyond Borders, trains participants in agro-processing of natural raw produce.
As a result, and determined not to see natural resources go to waste, the foundation reached out to watermelon farmers who had a surplus of produce that was at risk of being discarded. This outreach resulted in food hampers including a two-litre bottle of pure watermelon juice, processed specifically for the initiative.
Belgrove said the idea is to optimise use of commodities, natural resources and products.
The foundation also processes raw produce such as sweet potatoes, pigeon peas and other produce into flour, puree and other products.
"We have to be innovative and creative in how we use our local produce. Pigeon peas can be processed into over 135 different products, sweet potato into more than 15," Belgrove said.
The foundation is also using disposable bottles for the hatching of seedlings and has since engaged Moruga farmer Giselle Noreiga, to gather disposable containers for this purpose as well as supply seedlings.
It's an exercise that Belgrove said, they are urging families to adopt, whether it’s for sale or for their own personal use.
The foundation expressed thanks to BPTT for its partnership and also to sponsors/supporters such as SM Jaleel. As a result, the beverage company has endorsed the foundation's name on its Oasis bottled water for three months and will supply both water and juice for its programmes.
The foundation also commended like-minded efforts of its NPO partners, such as the Foundation for the Enrichment and Enhancement of Life (FEEL) and the community Ambassadors for Service who are constantly working to assist its community.