It’s estimated that over 500,000 people across the UK now access food banks. More and more people are finding they don’t have enough money coming in to pay for life’s necessities. Somer Valley Foodbank Coordinator Joy Fraser describes how this vital safety net operates.
The Somer Valley Foodbank has been operating for just over a year and in that time we have been able to help over 1000 people who have found themselves without food due to some kind of emergency. The reasons are many and varied but can be due to redundancy, family break-up, ill-health, benefit changes and delays, low income and debt, to name just a few.
Clients are referred to the Foodbank by professional agencies such as children's centres, health professionals, Citizens Advice Bureaux, DHI, schools and colleges, the Job Centre, council services and many others. They issue a voucher to the client and this can be exchanged for three-and-a-half days of emergency food supplies which they can get by coming to one of our distribution centres.
Once a client has received three vouchers we try to work alongside the agencies to ensure that the client's problems are being addressed and that once their emergency is over they will not need the foodbank services for a time.
At our distribution centre, clients are welcomed and offered a hot drink and biscuits and the volunteers will try to fulfil their food needs. We try to cater for vegetarians and those with special needs such as a gluten-free diet. While their food is packed up for them, volunteers will chat with the clients and if appropriate will signpost them to agencies who may be able to help with their emergency. All our volunteers are non-judgemental in their approach and are always welcoming and caring.
Our food is all donated and it is all tinned or dried as we cannot manage fresh produce. Churches, schools and some places of work have our collecting bins for people to donate regularly. We also collect at Tesco two or three times a year, asking shoppers to buy something from a prepared list of things we need. We usually give out about one tonne of food each month to those who are in need.
Food can be donated in Midsomer Norton at the Methodist Church which is open each morning. In Radstock there is a collecting bin at the Methodist Church and they are open for coffee each morning. In Peasedown St John people can take donations to the Youth Centre which is open each day. We always get plenty of tins of beans and soup and a lot of packets of pasta so these are the items we have plenty of. Items we are often short of are UHT/powdered milk, UHT juice, tinned meat, fish and vegetables, and instant mashed potatoes – so these are the items to buy.
The work of the foodbank has become vital in recent years as many people have struggled in difficult economic days. We are very grateful to all those who are prepared to donate their time and food to help those who find themselves in crisis.
Curo works closely with Somer Valley and other foodbanks in the areas we have homes. As a recognised referral partner we’ve been able to help many households struggling with money. For further information on Curo’s work with foodbanks please contact Alan Kelly on 01225 366179.
To find out more about the Somer Valley Foodbank visit www.somervalleyfoodbank.org.uk. Somer Valley Foodbank is part of the Trussell Trust who operate similar schemes across the South West of England and the rest of the country: www.trusselltrust.org.