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Banking on a Decent Meal

Wednesday 10th April, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

by Peter Hoare | tags: , , , ,

Peter Hoare looks at the work that NG7 Food Bank is doing in Nottingham

All three of our churches now have boxes for contributions from members of the congregation to the NG7 Food Bank, which operates in the Sumac Centre on Gladstone Road in Forest Fields. Donations are taken weekly to a collection point and passed to the Food Bank, which distributes food every Friday to people in serious and often unexpected need. Recipients have to be referred, by one of a selection of social agencies, which has the added benefit of making sure people are in touch with appropriate support groups, and avoiding the growth of a “dependency culture”.

I visited the Sumac Centre in February and talked to some of the Food Bank volunteers, including Jo Thorpe whose article appears below, together with an account by one of the volunteers who work with her. The sense of purpose was very evident, but the atmosphere was relaxed and welcoming, and I was impressed by the range of food available.

There are at least 12 other Food Banks in and around Nottingham, many of them run by the Trussell Trust, a nation-wide Christian charity which operates to serve real need as effectively as possible. It is clear that the need exists, and is likely to become much greater as changes in welfare provision begin to bite.

Please continue to help by bringing nonperishable food contributions to church - they can be left in the labelled boxes on Sundays or given to the vergers during the week.

The story so far By Joanne Thorpe (organiser at NG7 Food Bank)

The NG7 food bank began as a result of discussions between many local people, faith groups and local public and voluntary agencies. In NG7 it is recognised there is a high number of families where children are reliant on free school dinners, and providing food especially during the school holidays is more of a struggle for these families. Anecdotal evidence from advice centres, charities and local activists indicated that people often walked across the city to Hope Nottingham’s food bank in Beeston to access food. These factors influenced the decision to trial the food bank over the school summer holiday period, starting in July 2012. Fridays were chosen as our distribution day to ensure people wouldn’t be without food over the weekend.

Fundraising by Djanogly Community Cohesion project (CoCo) and the Sumac Centre meant we had a small financial resource supported by massive motivation and enthusiasm. We wanted the food bank to be accessible to those who needed us most, also to reach a diverse range of people. For these reasons we allocated a number of referral places to the main advice centres in the city, alongside referral arrangements with Children’s Services, charities and voluntary groups working with asylum-seekers/refugees and with A8 nationals (from EU “accession states”). Since opening we have fed over 600 people with usage now averaging over 30 people per week.

Our ‘Fill a Box’ scheme began in July 2012 and has developed sufficiently to enable us to continue without draining our small cash reserves. It is often a humbling experience to witness the ongoing generosity of the many people, organisations, and faith-communities that donate food.

To support the continuation and expansion of the work we have recently submitted funding bids and are awaiting the results. Currently the cost of a weekly food parcel (3-4 days) for one person is £6.90, made up of a range of staple foods including bread, butter, soup, a range of fresh and tinned vegetables, milk, pasta, rice and sugar. We add a selection of special items - cooking oil, packet rices and sauces, biscuits, chocolates, fruit juices etc. Thank you for your continued support.

The view from a volunteer By Eshe, aged 16

Friday’s food-bank whirlwind begins with us all carrying large amounts of tins, packets, jars, cartons, bags, boxes. The food is then laid out on the tables with numbered cards which match the different food items. Sometimes people arrive before the food’s ready but that’s fine because they often like to help out too or they are happy to make themselves a drink and wait. Once people begin to arrive, we take it in turns to take them round and let them chose their own food items. I think it is important that people get to pick their own food as it means they get a choice and they will definitely use what they take. I always tell people (if they have a cooker) to take porridge not cornflakes as porridge goes further. We like to cook a meal for people and volunteers to have and this gives all of us a chance to get to know each other and feel togetherness.

Once 2 o’clock comes we begin packing away which is always easier as there is less food. I enjoy seeing the tables empty of food and know this has been worthwhile.

How you can help

Please continue to help by bringing nonperishable food contributions to church - they can be left in the labelled boxes on Sundays or given to the vergers during the week.

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