Food Banks to help feed the hungry
Churches across the diocese came together to share ideas and learn more about how to feed the hungry on their doorsteps.
The network, supported by the Church Urban Fund, saw 20 different church organisations from some of the more deprived areas of our diocese meet in Dewsbury Minster to discuss food banks and other ways of providing emergency food parcels for those in dire need.
Last week the Church of England published new case studies showing that traditional harvest festivals were increasingly being used to support local food banks – and this includes the harvest produce given in many of our churches.
The Bishop of Pontefract, the Rt Revd Tony Robinson, chaired the meeting and said: “We are here to share stories and learn from each other. We need to be brave about being generous.”
Revd Helen Collings, vicar of St Catherine’s, Sandal, told the group about their emergency food store. Run and supplied by local volunteers and church members, it receives most of its produce through Harvest festivals and occasional “top ups” during the year. She told the group that in the last eleven months they had given out 72 food parcels to 38 people – some walked from as far away as Normanton and Pontefract just to pick up a food parcel.
She explained it was designed for emergency use rather than a long term solution and offered a supply of dried and tinned food that would last a couple of days. But she said they also tried to signpost people to other services, tried to strike up a good conversation to keep a record of all applicants and hopefully do a follow up visit.
“It’s local people helping local people. This goes to the heart of our gospel values and if that means we might get ripped off occasionally then so be it. Rather that, then let someone go hungry,” she said.
Kathryn Coulthard of the South Ossett Resource Aid Centre explained that the economic crisis had put pressure on them to actively go out to find more food and supplies for the increasing numbers who needed it.
They had initially been set up to help people coming out of care to find their feet but now found that everyone was feeling the pinch.
A team of 12 work a couple of hours two days a week out of small room in South Ossett parish centre and are currently supplying around 100 parcels a month.
They are supported by all the churches and all but one school in the town and receive all their harvest festival produce. The also have people who support them through a regular standing order.
They have close links with different agencies which collect the parcels and distribute them. They provide parcels for food, cleaning basics and toiletries. Last May they secured the support of Wakefield MP, Mary Creagh and collected 26 shopping trollies full of food from the two Sainsbury’s supermarkets in Wakefield who had allowed them to campaign in store.
Kathryn shared some tips, such as hotels change their towels every 12 months and will often just donate them, and some stores – like Wilkinsons - have a charities list that you need to get your name on, and companies like Coca Cola can be very generous and provide goods you can then use to raffle to raise more funds.
“You have to be proactive about setting up and you’ve got to get what you can where you can,” she said.
This week the UK Foodbank charity The Trussell Trust revealed that a record-breaking 100,000 people have received emergency food from UK foodbanks in just six months and warned that rises in food and fuel bills this winter could force more Britons into a crisis.
The Trussell Trust helps local churches and communities to open food banks, providing emergency food for people on low incomes who might be faced with a sudden crisis. People needing help are given a voucher by their local authority which they swap for food parcels at their local food bank.
Sarah Baker from the Holderness Food Bank – a Trussell Trust initiative - told the network that in the first year of setting up, they have fed 500 people.
Sarah, a peripatetic music teacher in the Holme Valley, pointed out that poverty wasn’t just an urban issue, and as a music teacher, she saw rural poverty in some of the nicest middle class white areas. And she shared a simple way of boosting a food bank’s supplies.
“Whenever we go shopping, we look in our basket and pick out the two or three luxury items that always end up in there. Usually it’s chocolate, chocolate biscuits or hair dye in my case. We put them back and supplement them with some basic items we can donate instead.
“It’s become second nature now to us now, we all do it. One of my pupils put on a concert and made people pay in foodstuff instead of money,” she said.
The Holderness Food Bank is run out of the Holderness parish centre. It has set opening times and works alongside lots of partner agencies. The Trussell Trust hand out shopping lists as bookmarks so people can see at a glance what items are needed when they go shopping.
She said that the number of people who wanted to give something back after being helped by the food bank was in the high 80 per cent and all they asked was to give back the food they had received.
“There are people we miss, I know that. Poverty is out there and not always where you expect to find it,” said Sarah.
The Ebenezer Project, or Food and Support Drop In, helps people in crisis with food, emergency supplies and prayerful support and is a partnership between 50 local churches and other organisations in Halifax. It offers a weekly drop in at Ebenezer Methodist Church, St James Rd.
Halifax has more refugees than any other of our parishes and many of them need help with simple things like clothing, emergency toiletries, finding their way round shops and language.
Barbara Robinson and Aileen Atkinson from St Hilda’s, Halifax both help. On average the drop in sees 100 to 120 people every Saturday morning to be greeted by around 50 volunteers.
Said Barbara: “Giving out food always creates an opportunity to befriend. We want those that come to us to feel able to talk about their problems, share their concerns and if they want to talk privately, there is a private room available.
“We give out at least 100 food parcels every week. We share everything up, biscuits are shared, tea bags, shampoo is divided down into smaller bottles, washing up liquid the same,” she said.
The food and drop in centre runs a regular blog to share news of how many people they’ve helped, how many food parcels distributed, who’s moved on, who’s been re-homed and it includes a prayer list.
This is from their blog last November: On the 5th November I wrote about a young lady who had been made homeless and she and her husband were sleeping in the car ... the news today is that they now have been re-homed and as you can imagine she looked so different today when she came in, colour in her cheeks and a smile. Praise God for answered prayer.
The project needs people or groups to donate food on a regular basis and is trying to encourage people to set up a shopping tithe to donate 10% of their weekly shopping budget so regular giving is secured.
Members of the network shared ideas around the relationship between debt and poverty and the work of Christians Against Poverty in our diocese. They talked about enabling people to accept charity and keep their dignity and ways to tackle those issues by swapping trades, or food for clothes or offering food at knockdown prices so they still feel they are paying for it and it’s not just taking charity. They talked about needing to be strategic and having models in place especially if the Trussell Fund’s expectations about the growing number of needy people.
Mary Railton Crowder, Rural Dean of Huddersfield and vicar of Birchencliffe and Birkby, shared her idea of having a parish nurse on hand to tackle the physical health of some people living in her communities.
It was agreed the network would meet again in the spring.
IF YOU WANT TO BE PART OF THIS NETWORK...
Contact Susan Parker, Diocesan Development Officer at Church House on 01924 371802.
DATE FOR YOUR DIARY: DEC 8th 2012 St George’s Crypt, Leeds. Funding for your Church Project with guest speaker Maggie Duggan. Booking Details to be announced later. Watch out for more in the ebulletin.
You can get in touch with any of the speakers to find out more or pick their brains;
Revd Helen Collings on 01924 211130
Sarah Baker, Holderness Food Bank.
Kathryn Coulthard, South Ossett Resource Aid Centre, Kathryn.firstname.lastname@example.org or mob: 07522604130
Susan Capener at the Ebenezer Project.
Food & Support Drop In
Ebenezer Methodist Church
St James Road
Christians Against Povertyhas a number of networks across our diocese including Wakefield, Pontefract and Dewsbury. They offer practical help and advice and counselling for debt.
Contact the central helpline on 01274 760720 or find out more at www.capuk.org
Sally Martin from St Helen’s Sandal Magna Parish is part of a community forum working creatively in one of the more deprived areas of our diocese.
Statement in support of World Food Day
Dr Charles Reed the Church of England’s International and Development Affairs adviser said: “World Food Day’s “fight hunger to reduce poverty” campaign reminds us of the continuing need for emergency supplies faced by many in our own country as well as abroad. Our churches support those in need in the developing world as well as in our own communities. Today UK Foodbank charity The Trussell Trust reveals that a record-breaking 100,000 people have received emergency food from UK foodbanks in just six months and warns that rises in food and fuel bills this winter could force more Britons into a crisis.
Last week the CofE published new case studies showing that traditional harvest festivals are increasingly being used to support local foodbanks. Our bishops in the House of Lords are also committed to speaking on issues of food security as part of Church’s commitment to provide for human dignity for all.”