Lewes shares the love on Valentine’s Day

Woman with a supermarket trolley piled full of bags of cereals.
Valentine’s Day food bank appeal administrator Lisa Balkwill gathers the first of the overloaded trolleys and comments: “It’s brilliant to be part of a community project like this, and inspiring to see everyone pulling together.” Photo credit: Nigel French and Melanie Hobson

The depths of lockdown, social distancing, masks the norm when out and about plus the coldest February for years… all that could add up to the saddest ever Valentine’s Day. Not so if you live in Lewes and if Mark Perryman has anything to do with it! Mark, pioneer of the Lewes all-day supermarket food bank collections, found a way to run a Valentine’s Day appeal despite the severe restrictions.

Still reeling from a staggering 7,002 food items collected at the Christmas collection, he had an idea: “I thought it’s wildly ambitious, but we’ll try to collect £ 7,002 online and then, instead of collecting outside the stores, we’ll have small numbers of people shopping inside with whatever money we manage to raise.” Amazingly, the online appeal raised a grand total of £10,540, a testimony to how close this important cause is to people’s hearts in Lewes.

Three men wearing colourful outfits and hats.
Busking band Magnificent Kevins studying their shopping list. Photo credit: Nigel French and Melanie Hobson

The assembled Lewes cultural, sporting, political and faith groups – bolstered by first-timers Lewes FC Men’s First Team, Plumpton Athletic FC Juniors and Cycle Lewes – made quite a spectacle. They wore bright pink face coverings and hi-vis jackets, created by Lewes designer Sophie Gibson and produced locally by Dolly’s Scrub Hub and Another Fine Mesh.  

The Valentine’s appeal shoppers spent their £ 7,002 on a total of 7,164 items of food and household goods, a new record, for the four food banks. The balance of the money raised, more than £3,000, will be handed to the food banks to help tide them over until Easter, when another collection is planned.

Man in pink hi-vis vest.
Mark is an optimist but, as he says, “When I stop and think why we’re having to do this in one of the richest countries in the world, pessimism doesn’t even begin to describe it.” Photo credit: Ginny Foster   
Message on masks, jackets and posters
A group of people outside a supermarket.
Lewes Greens, Labour and Lib Dems are working together to get ready for their trolley dash. Photo credit: Katie Vandyck
Man and woman dressed as King and Queen of Hearts.
King and Queen of Hearts prepare for their dash. Photo credit: Ginny Foster
Two acresses pushing trolley down supermarket aisle.
Kaleidoscope Theatre acting up as they prepare to fill their trolleys. Photo credit: Nigel French and Melanie Hobson
Woman pushing trolley loaded with breakfast cereals.
Yve Akehurst from the Depot Cinema, in charge of breakfast cereals and treats – Lewes food banks know what you need when you’re going through a hard time, and it’s not just the basics! Photo credit: Ginny Foster
Cyclist loading up a supermarket trolley.
Nobody has been forgotten, not even the pets! Photo credit: Ginny Foster
Two young footballers in supermarket.
First-timers Teddy Bloor and Tegan Freeman from Lewes FC Men’s First Team are stocking up on toiletries because, as Mark says, food poverty means hygiene poverty too. The entire squad had also raised £160 towards the appeal. Photo credit: Ginny Foster
Man dressed in swimming trunks and a robe, ready to go shopping.
Ash Head, Tide Mills Swimmer, was ready to shop first! Photo credit: James McCauley
Man and woman wearing wigs.
Paddock Singers ready to go and sing with their trolleys (behind their masks and quietly!). Photo credit: Ginny Foster
Woman dressed as Cinderella outside a supermarket, chatting to passersby.
Cinderella and Prince Charming are back, this time at Waitrose. Photo credit: Ginny Foster
Woman dressed as Cinderella with a trolley loaded with pasta, rice and other staples.
 Just to be clear, Cinderella is not panic buying! Photo credit: Ginny Foster
Cyclist being briefed for her shopping trip.
 Mark prepares Lewes Wanderers Cycling Club for their shop. Photo credit: James McCauley
Cricket player shopping in supermarket.
Peter Riddelsdell from Lewes Priory Cricket Club on the hot chocolate run. Photo credit: Ginny Foster
Young woman pedalling a cargo bike, loaded with a passenger and several shopping bags,
Also helping out for the first time were Cycle Lewes, who provided trolley bikes to assist with the food bank deliveries. Joanna Yarrow even had room for a passenger. Photo credit: Cargo Bikes
Two hockey players getting ready to go shopping.
Lewes FC’s Richard Irving briefs Lewes Hockey Club’s goalkeepers with their shopping lists. Photo credit: James McCauley

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