How Virgin's Local Legends are supporting foodbanks across the UK

A man stocks shelves at a food bank
A man stocks shelves at a food bank | Shutterstock
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
19 February 2024

The Virgin brand has never shied away from tackling some of the world’s most controversial and unacceptable issues. This determination and desire to change the world for good has been matched by many of our incredible Virgin people in their own communities. Time and again, Virgin people step up and go the extra mile in support of others –using their time to volunteer for charities that tackle unacceptable issues. Virgin believes these people are true legends and their volunteer work should be celebrated. 

Virgin Unite – the independent, non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group – launched Local Legends in 2023, a £1,000,000 fund to support charities that are tackling unacceptable issues in the UK – issues that Virgin employees care about too. 

Through Virgin Unite Local Legends, Virgin Unite is awarding £1,000,000 over three years to community-based UK charities nominated by a Virgin employee who volunteers with the charity. Holly Branson announced the 31 charities that received a £5,000 grant to use where it was needed most in the first round in December 2023.

A person reaching into a donated box of food at a food bank
A person reaching into a donated box of food at a food bank | Shutterstock

Among the charities receiving funding were a number of food banks. Nearly three million people in the UK received an emergency food parcel from a food bank between 2022 and 2023. Virgin is proud that its people across the UK are volunteering their time at charities that are doing amazing work to help people afford to feed themselves and their families.

Melanie Paul, Distribution Strategy Manager at Virgin Atlantic, volunteers in her free time with FreeShop Crawley, a food bank that provides food, toiletries and baby essentials without any associated costs. She said: “It’s the best thing ever, the people are so grateful. You’re not doing it for the reward, it's just trying to help people as much as possible. Anybody could be in the same situation at any point in their lives, and their self-esteem is so low but after a while they really do pick themselves up and get back on the horse and get back to work, and then they want to contribute as well, so it’s a real cycle.”

“The volunteering is everything and anything that’s needed. A lot of the time it’s fundraising, putting together programmes and projects so they can pull together more funding for the food collections.”

Bags of food lined up and ready to go at FreeShop Crawley
Bags of food lined up and ready to go at FreeShop Crawley | Woodard Photography

The £5,000 will help FreeShop Crawley to continue the good work it’s doing, which has expanded beyond the standard food bank. It now offers training programmes with a free creche and childcare so that parents can learn new skills that will help them return to employment. And those who need suitable clothing for interviews or starting a new job can pick up clothes from FreeShop Crawley too.

Adam Holmes spends his working hours as a Service Relationship Manager at Virgin Media O2, but in his spare time, he volunteers at Sheffield S6 Foodbank. “The main thing is to support creating food parcels for vulnerable people, families, just so they can get by really,” Adam said. “They also offer some great work around debt management so they are not only providing the food but they’re also trying to help people out of the cycle that they’re in.”

“Feeding people. Reducing debt. Building community. We believe that no one should go hungry or face crippling debt,” a spokesperson from Sheffield S6 Foodbank said. “That's why we work with communities to empower them and address their immediate needs. Thank you for your support which will help us to continue supporting our local community in Sheffield.”

Virgin Unite Local Legends is distributing £1,000,000 of funding to local UK charities that Virgin employees volunteer with challenging unacceptable issues on their doorsteps. The second round of nominations is now open and Virgin employees can nominate the charities that they volunteer with to be among the next to receive a grant.