A key part of the Fight Hunger Create Change partnership between Asda, the Trussell Trust and FareShare is a grants programme for food banks in our network, providing crucial additional resources to increase the breadth of services they can offer people to help prevent someone needing a food bank again in the future.
This month we are collectively marking our two-year anniversary of the partnership and sharing stories of the difference it has made to people’s lives. A year on from receiving their grant funding, Colchester Foodbank has been able to achieve everything it had planned over three years. Michael Beckett, who is the chief officer at the food bank, explains what has been made possible…
Michael: Paramedics came to us after tending to an elderly lady who had collapsed in the street. When they took her home, they found her cupboards were bare – she had been surviving off half a bag of sugar that she’d been making sugar water out of as she had nothing. The paramedics knew that unless she was helped with extra food, she’d collapse again as she had nothing until her pension came in the next week.
We were able to make sure she had enough food to see her through. This is the vital support we can give people– and with the Asda grant we have been able to double the amount of volunteers we can take on – we now have 150 helping us.
Unfortunately, we have seen a huge increase in need for our services, especially since people have moved onto the new benefits system Universal Credit. People are having to wait five weeks until they receive their first payment and so are going without. Since that change from 2018 to 2019, we have experienced more than a 30% increase in demand, most worryingly a 41.4% in demand for children.
Our Asda grant has enabled us to take on a warehouse supervisor and the difference this has made is incredible. It has freed up much more of my time and not only enabled us to increase the amount of volunteers we have helping us – but we are now able to open on Saturdays, have opened at two extra locations and have been able to take on a long-term storage unit. This change has helped us facilitate this increase hugely.
Our increased capacity means we can better help the hospital discharge team with vouchers for food parcels, as well as social workers and schools. Not only that, but people fleeing domestic violence and moving from refuges to a new home are able to come and we can provide them with items such as cutlery, crockery and a tin opener, as well as food, so they can settle better into their new life.
Being able to provide such support can be the difference between helping people at risk of having their children taken into care – or losing their home – because people are forced into situations where they cannot provide – or pay their rent.
I am so grateful to our volunteers who all work so hard day in and day out – and to Asda for giving us the opportunity to double the capacity of our volunteers, treble our footprint and accommodate a third increase in demand. Without that generous extra funding people would suffer because we wouldn’t have had the resources to cope.