A COMMUNITY support group which moved outside during the lockdown fed 322 people in five days.

Run by city resident Sean Monaghan, the GEMS group which stands for guidance, empowerment, motivation and safeguarding, has been running since August last year.

But this is the busiest time the group has faced, because as the pandemic hit, the building where they usually provide support at St Mary's Church was forced to close.

The support group, which provides a space for people in recovery from drug and alcohol issues, has had to move outside onto St Mary's Street to feed vulnerable residents.

Organiser Sean, 54, said: "We were a support group which went from running inside the building to a food group running outside the building.

"We've helped a lot of people in need, and have been serving over 1,000 people a month. But from Sunday until Friday, we had 322 people in five days. This is vulnerable families and adults."

Food has been provided by charity Fareshare, the Co-op and Greggs, who have contributed to the ambient foods, fresh produce like fruit and vegetables, meats, pasties, and cooked meals available.

The Saints Foundation has also given them 2,000 meals, while staff from games cafe Board in the City and Love Southampton have been delivering between 40 and 50 food parcels every week.

Sean added: "The ethnic population attending has been absolutely incredible, we have been supporting Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Indians, Polish, Romanians and others.

"We’re supporting all of them families and ethnic minorities. It feels really good to be able to help so many people in need, especially people which have slipped through the net.

"At St Mary's, we have no post office and no local supermarket, but we’ve had absolutely fabulous support from Councillor John Noon who comes down weekly and gives donations out of his own pocket.

"Covid-19 pandemic is currently a catastrophe right over the planet. If anybody has any concerns or feels shy to come to the food bank, don’t feel that way. Anybody is welcome to get food parcels."

The food bank is open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 10am to 12pm.

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/gems.gems.54943600.