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Community Ice Cream Van Provides Essential Support to Liverpool Families

by Alice

Amidst the typical buzz of an ice cream van, a different kind of gathering takes place outside a charity shop in Liverpool. Here, on a damp day, more than a dozen individuals, many accompanied by young children, form a queue eagerly awaiting the arrival of a distinctive yellow truck.

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Contrary to expectations, this van doesn’t offer the usual array of frozen treats. Instead, its chillers are stocked with frozen food, while its shelves boast essentials like soup, toiletries, and vegetables, all priced affordably compared to supermarkets.

Twenty-year-old Kimberley Rumble, cradling her seven-week-old baby, attests to the van’s impact: “The van has made a massive difference to a lot of people. No-one judges you here. It helps me a lot to have extra food in the cupboards in the middle of the week.” She recounts a recent trip to a nearby shop where a single tub of formula cost an exorbitant £20.

For 69-year-old pensioner Kevin Crilly, the ice cream van, accompanied by his faithful dog Rosie, is a “godsend.” He emphasizes its significance for individuals on low incomes, fostering a sense of community and offering an opportunity for social interaction.

The brainchild behind this unique initiative is Michelle Roach, a 37-year-old single mother who established the community interest company New Beginnings, Improving Lives just prior to the pandemic. Alongside initiatives like a community store, mental health support groups, and an emergency food bank, Michelle envisioned the ice cream van as an approachable solution to address food insecurity. “Dignity is number one for us,” Michelle asserts, aiming to eliminate any stigma associated with seeking assistance.

Repurposed from its former life as a purveyor of cold treats, the 30-year-old van now traverses some of Liverpool’s most deprived areas, selling surplus food from supermarkets and donations at discounted rates. Since its launch in August 2022, it has provided sustenance for nearly 30,000 people.

Michelle’s personal experiences of hardship, including a period of unemployment compounded by a cancer diagnosis when her son was just seven months old, fueled her determination to create a support system for others facing similar challenges.

Behind the wheel of the van is Morlan Carr, 56, who, after seeking help from New Beginnings with only a few pounds to his name, became a dedicated volunteer. Reflecting on his past struggles, Morlan recognizes the urgency of the van’s service, recounting instances when people eagerly awaited its arrival, desperate for sustenance.

Despite its success, Michelle expresses grave concerns about the van’s future. New Beginnings relies heavily on the Household Support Fund, a government grant distributed by local authorities to assist families in need and support organizations like hers. While the government has extended the fund for six months, there’s uncertainty beyond that period, leaving the future of the initiative in limbo.

As the ice cream van prepares to replenish its supplies, it completes its final sale of the day, including a few jelly babies, to a mother with her two-year-old daughter, who wishes to remain anonymous. She emphasizes the van’s critical role, describing it as a lifeline for her family amidst rising expenses and financial challenges.

In the face of uncertain funding, Michelle remains resolute in her mission to support Liverpool’s vulnerable communities. However, the looming prospect of reduced services underscores the urgent need for sustained support to ensure the continuity of essential initiatives like the community ice cream van.

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