HERTFORD & DISTRICT FOODBANK
Report H&DCT Meeting 31 January 2018
Unfortunately we do not have the final up to date figures as our much-valued Stores Manager is away on a well-deserved month’s holiday to Australia. We know however it really was one of the busiest times we have experienced in nearly 5 years of operation. Not only were we busy with more Clients but also with the amount of food and toiletries donated over the Christmas period by churches, schools, local businesses and private individuals; all helping to keep our stocks high and seeing us through the next couple of months. Over 2000 kg of stock was donated and one of the most successful ideas was the “Reverse Advent Calendar” when individuals donated a gift instead of receiving one.
We found ourselves helping more families this Christmas, especially larger ones. We introduced our own ‘Fuel Poverty Scheme’ as there were no Charitable Grants available this year. We had allocated £250 from Foodbank funds (five grants of £50 each) to go to those individuals and families who were struggling to pay for electricity/gas to heat and use their cooking facilities. However, we had more demands for this help through CAB and a Housing Association and were grateful to the URC for a further 5 donations made through an individual donation.
We can’t stress enough about the amazing resource the Foodbank is to our Community in Hertford and how incredibly grateful we are to everyone involved, whether it’s putting a few items in a collecting box, helping to transport this, picking up from supermarkets, working in the stockroom weighing, sorting and recording, and of course very importantly, helping all those Clients that come through our doors. Thank you to everyone concerned and especially this winter when jobs have needed to be covered through family commitments and ill health.
HERTFORD & DISTRICT CHURCHES TOGETHER
FOODBANK REPORT FOR FEBRUARY 2017
We had an extremely busy time on the run up to Christmas, made even busier by the very generous food donations we received from the public this year. We wondered if this was because of the film “I, Daniel Blake” which featured a Foodbank and the very good press coverage we had from the Mercury local newspaper; this was also due mainly to the success and skills of our new Publicity Officer, Martin Ring.
We were challenged with finding extra storage for these donations and we are grateful to the URC for offering the use of one corner of their church for excess stock. This stock will help us cope in the months ahead when the ‘Christmas effect’ has dwindled. This is when we are so grateful to all our local churches for the steady in-flow of our core stock, either directly or through one of the local supermarket Collection Points. To highlight this point food issued in January this year was 1102kg whereas food and toiletries donated were 737kg. A shopping list of the most required items is always available on our website.
Fuel Poverty has also been addressed this winter and we are able to give struggling clients up to £50 towards their fuel payments. This is accessed through the Citizen’s Advice Service.
In the next few weeks alterations are taking place to the Foodbank Reception Area giving us a more defined area for refreshments including a ‘drinks station”, this has been financed by an HCC Small Community Grant sourced through the URC.
We continue with an amazing team of volunteers and feel we are providing a very necessary service to the Community on behalf of the churches in Hertford. Special thanks is due to our Stores Manager, Howard Ward and his team who have been exceptionally busy over the past couple of months.
Latest statistics tell us that January 2017 saw an actual “27% decrease” in clients compared with last year. Good news!
In June 2015 a team from the URC Thames North Synod visited the Hertford & District Foodbank to write a report to be submitted to Michael Jagessar (Secretary for Racial Justice and Intercultural Ministry) in order that it could be submitted for a Multicultural Story Award within the URC .
We are delighted to be informed that Hertford URC have been given this award and it is to be presented at a Multicultural Celebration at the Church at Carrs Lane, Birmingham, on Saturday 26th September. We are hoping that someone from the Foodbank or our Church will be able to attend this Celebration to receive it on the Church’s behalf. It sounds such an exciting event; the programme is on the back table in the Church for your information. There is also a copy of the report submitted.
It finishes at 4.00 pm with the Award to be given at 2.20 pm this should give plenty of time for anyone to travel back for the Riding Lights Production. If you are interested in doing this please contact Fran Spence or Cheryl Jackson.
Multicultural Story Award 2015
Hertford URC: Foodbank
How they began
Two years last April, an elder from Hertford URC saw a Food Collection being held in a supermarket in Welwyn Garden City.. Having never heard of such an idea before, she mistakenly thought it was to send food to starving people aboard. After further conversation she learnt that it was a way of supporting those in the local community who were finding it difficult to make ends meet. Inspired, the elder took the idea back to the eldership team, where they began to discuss the possibilities. Little did they know the seeds of starting a Foodbank in their church had already been sown.
During that time Hertford URC were reflecting on the mission life of their Church. With the cuts in government policy from the department of Work and Pensions, a few other people in the congregation had begun to wonder about having a Foodbank. After much discussion and further information and support from Broxbourne Foodbank (opened and run by members of the local churches in the Borough of Broxbourne) Hertford URC made the decision to embark on a new challenge to open a Foodbank for their local community. As a Church they felt they could spearhead the Project but knew they would need the help and support of others to sustain the Project. The idea was shared with Churches Together in Hertford and received much interest. However, the question which they could come to hear on more than one occasion was,
"Is there really a need for a Foodbank here, in Hertford?"
The answer was and is YES!
Altogether there are 50/60 volunteers on the rota. These consist of mainly retired people from Hertford URC and the surrounding Churches; community groups; and individuals from a Christian and non- Christian background. Sometimes local agencies refer people to volunteer for the Foodbank to gain experience of those in need e.g. Police; Waterways Chaplin.
The Foodbank is open 5 days a week between the hours of 4-5pm. 5 volunteers are on site each day. Their roles include, welcoming the clients; checking their vouchers and helping them compile a shopping list; packing and distribution. There is always an opportunity to have a cuppa and a chat with one of the volunteers too.
During this time advice and information can be offered to clients to contact other agencies or organisations that might be able to help their situation: the CAB is present one day a week. Sometimes people have asked for prayer.
The Foodbank has now received Charitable Status.
Training for the volunteers
Training is seen as an important part of their development in the work. Initially this was provided by the Area Development Manager of the Trussell Trust but is now undertaken in-house with constant updates and advice from their Headquarters. Volunteers receive training at the beginning of their service.
There are on-going training sessions suggested by Liz, who sends emails around about training initiatives for the volunteers. She is the person who looks after the volunteers and gives support, ensuring that no volunteer ever feels isolated. Volunteers meet 3 or 4 times a year (at lunch times) to have some in-house training on issues that arise as well as give general support and opportunity for them to ask questions about the Foodbank. For example, having a representative from the Drugs Project to help them relate to people with drugs problems who may use the food bank. The training included the issue of fear to help volunteers deal with thisand included learning more about the different therapies people with addictions can access (reflexology being one). They have also had 3 sessions run by the Samaritans on listening skills.
A volunteer sorting / packing food
Relationships between the Project and the Church
One of the manager volunteers, Frances, explained how the URC had been happy to provide the premises free; to put aside one of their church rooms as a stock room for the food; extend welcome and hospitality to clients and took pride in this project being a Christian based initiative. Recently, the foodbank have been able to pay a little towards the church costs.
At first comments could be heard in the congregation that these people coming for food were scroungers. Gradually as the congregation learnt more about the conditions and situations that brought people to this food bank, attitudes changed. Now the congregation is proud to own this project and has been positively educated by it.
In church on Sundays there is a wheelbarrow. When people come to worship they are encouraged to put items of food in the wheelbarrow if they wish to. Other churches involved in this project do the same. These items are then added to the stock room.
Where Does The Food Come From?
All of the food comes from the generosity of local people. Food is bought to Hertford URC from local Churches as well as their own. A wheelbarrow sits at the back of the sanctuary where members deposit their donations. They also operate collection points in Waitrose and Tesco. Everything is accepted (I was surprised to see cat and dog food), as long as the goods contain no alcohol and are not perishable.
Approximately £100 everymonth is spent on 'special items'. This might include goods that are in short supply of e.g. nappies and Self Heating Meals specifically for the homeless.
What Type Of People Use The Foodbank?
- Drug/alcohol dependant
- Employed people on low wages or zero hours contracts
- HouseboatBoat people
- People on sanctions from benefits
- People made redundant and waiting for benefit payments
- A few from Eastern European countries
Drawing on the Good Will of the people
Sometimes it is difficult to collect the weight of food (could be up to 1 ton) from the supermarket. Everything has to be handled and moved from shop to car and from car to church. For the first year a local Rotary Club member helped to organise and assist with these collections. as well as church members. These practical tasks have also helped to widen the outlook of the church fellowship and to broaden their understanding. It has also enabled them to acknowledge that people of other faiths or of no expressed faith can have understanding and compassion for this food bank project and are happy to give their support in different ways.
COMMENTS from VOLUNTEERS
M. The food bank is a real joy to work with
B. The elders feel real ownership and the church has found new energy through working with the foodbank
F. We asked the question,’ what can we do as an ageing membership?’ The congregation is now right behind it and it has brought new life experience to us.
T. We had a few organisational difficulties when setting up at first. For example it was difficult to manage the food stocks but we now have a member of our church who has volunteered to do the stock taking and the weighing of food
F. We need to pay a subscription to the Trussell Trust but finance is not a problem
M. The majority of clients show appreciation of the food
bank and we have only ever known one or two people
in over a year who have tried to abuse the system, but
through our training we are now in a better position to
know how to deal with such a situation if it should
F. This whole project is undergirded with PRAYER
Benefits to Hertford URC
It was evident from our visit that the members of Hertford URC were very proud and passionate about what they had achieved with the Foodbank so far. Volunteers talked about the change in their attitudes towards the people they were helping and the surprise at the range of people that needed this type of support in their local community.
A few years previous this Church would have defined themselves as an “ageing congregation”, however the Foodbank has given them a new lease of life; it has become their mission in action!
- The enthusiastic volunteers explained how the project had evolved gradually with different stepping stones along the way. Recently the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) had come on board and attended some of the Food Bank sessions. More volunteers from other churches had got involved compared with when they first started. Also clients are helping out one another more, with exchange and explanation about information.
- In the future we aim to do more to help clients with their shopping loads. This would be carried out by taking shopping loads to clients’ homes by car. We also have a vision of being able to restore and develop a redundant building at the back of the church, which could be used for informal educational sessions/classes to enable some people to make simple and nutritious economic meals and try them out here.
- Support given by the Trussell Trust
- Former users of the Foodbank returning to volunteer their help around the church e.g. gardening
- Former users of the Foodbank donating food items
Relationships have been strengthened between the local Churches as Christians work on this outreach together. It is also a good witness to the 45 Agencies we work with.
Sandra Ackroyd and Lorraine Downer-Mattis