Chichester couple's tireless volunteering has kept people fed throughout pandemic - 'If we didn't, food would go in the bin and that would be criminal'
Every evening throughout the pandemic, Joyce and Jim Loten have set out to collect end of day produce that would otherwise be destroyed.
The selfless couple, who have lived in Chichester for 38 years, make two journeys every evening, filling up the boot of their car with items which they deliver to St Richard's Hospital and the fire station through their daughter's charity — Services Outreach Support UK.
Joyce said: "This supports all blue lights services. We got on board with his before the pandemic by picking up food and supplying the neighbourhood.
"We intend to carry on longer after the pandemic has finished as there's so much wastage from shops. People are still going to struggle to afford food.
"We feel as part of the community, we need to make sure everyone has enough to eat at any time, irrespective of what pay band you're on.
"It makes sure we can get to people who, otherwise, would be on their own and are too embarrassed to say they haven't got enough to eat."
Joyce, 70, worked as a phlebotomist at a GP practice for 15 years. Since her retirement, she has focused on her charity work, whilst also acting as the primary carer for her husband, and former upholster, Jim, 69, who has dementia.
"I'm lucky that he [Jim] comes with me all the time," Joyce said. "Everybody loves to see him. It also gives him something to look forward to meeting people."
Joyce said the volunteering work ensures that local families in need are getting the 'right type of food'.
She said: "It's not just left over bread. There are always things like fruit, vegetables, soft drinks, etc.
"We've had two nights off since the beginning of the pandemic, Christmas Day and Easter Sunday. We go out every single night and deliver to as many people as we can.
"If we didn't do it, food would go in the bin and that would be criminal."
The couple, who live the near the city hospital, deliver food to A&E staff every night.
Joyce added: "The girls and boys there are having a really tough game, not being able to take breaks. When we take the food in, we know they are at least going to get something to eat.
"We also work with Four Streets. A couple of nights a week, we take food down to the homeless. We try to distribute as much as we can to as many as we can."
Pre-lockdown, Joyce and Jim would often be found at the local community centre, serving teas and coffees to the Tuesday morning coffee club.
Joyce also volunteers at Swanfield Park Residents Neighbourhood Group (SPRING), where she makes breakfasts for people in Chichester on Saturday mornings.
Joyce stepped up into the role of vice-chairman for the community group, which has been impacted by a lack of events and meetings during the pandemic.
Sue Cecil, a friend of the couple, said her 18-year-old grandson, Jack Lawlor, who has Downs Syndrome, has supported their efforts.
She said: "He has played a part by delivering the leftover flowers and daffodils to residents on the Swanfield Park estate as he took his daily exercise.
"He loved the idea of people being surprised to find a special little gift when they returned home or opened the door to go out.
"People like Joyce and Jim have brought a little bit of happiness to those in need and the professional workers who have served us selflessly throughout the challenge of a pandemic."
SPRING is looking for new members. Anyone interested can email Joyce at [email protected]