The main news from foodbank is that we are really busy. In 2022 we despatched 150 double boxes and 151 single boxes equivalent to a total of 451 3 day food packages distributed. To get a sense of perspective this headline figure was 101 at the end of 2020 and 290 at the end of last year. The upturn in demand started in May last year and hasn’t let up. It was noticeable how over the summer holidays more families needed to visit.
Some clients visit us more than once and we did have some regulars across the year. In total over the year we fed 192 adults and 112 children. Up from 77 adults , 67 children last year. Over double.
The regular clients have needed more of my time to unpick what support they could use so they are not returning to us month after month. These sometimes lead to difficult conversations when we cannot keep supporting them. We now try to get everyone to use the Help through hardship helpline to access a voucher so they can get professional advice.
We have started to see more clients from our neighbourhood and our streets in Clarendon Park. We have also been able to support more clients living in temporary accommodation in hostels nearby.
The range of needs continues to diversify. It ranges from unstable housing to shift work not providing enough income but the major factor for a lot of families has been the move over to universal credit and lack of holiday support. Ukrainians arriving also had a long wait to get universal credit and to get set up in this country. This need still remains with many sessions having at least one Ukrainian. We are getting used to using Google translate!
We were called to pray for the many poorly individuals who have walked or in some case staggered through our doors suffering from long covid, infected wounds, mental health problems to name a few. Last year we had a lady walk to us with children and a pushchair in tow all the way from New Parks. She arrived just in time before we closed. Thanks to the volunteers pitching in we often got these desperate cases a lift or taxi home.
The other big issue we found was international students arriving with their families and finding themselves unable to support them . They have no access to any benefits as they were asked to prove they were financially able to do this before getting a visa. So Charlie Carr was in contact with De Montfort university and we have tried to push some individuals back to them so they could see the amount of need coming our way.
We have continued to use the compassion fund to buy fresh fruit and vegetables to supplement what tins are given out. We have also been able to offer tea and coffee again with chocolate biscuits. We also buy in toiletries to hand out. Many thanks to all those contributing to this fund.
It has also helped us fund Easter eggs for the many families on pupil premium at St Johns as well as our local young persons refuge. Then at Christmas we could also provide them with a ‘Love Christmas’ bag of kindness full of Christmas goodies. Due to the demand and lack of time we cut back and did not do Christmas hampers this year. Thanks go to Ann Dooley, Tracey Gosling and especially Charlie and Jill Carr for their work buying and filling the bags of kindness.
Many thanks to James Banks always looking for grants to help fund this work too.
Marilyn Allen at Hope community church continues to be a great contact as I have been able to take very needy families to her clothing bank.
Again Covenant life church came along on a few sessions to promote the CAP (Christians against poverty) job club that their church was running.
Another person we work with and buy things for is Kat Gibson the diocesan intercultural pioneer minister. She became a link for us originally through the work with Afghan refugees when we bought underwear for them. It became noted that some other refugee families were really struggling with their children refusing to eat hotel food so we offered to host a cooking space for the families. This happened over a few months and we were able to support 4 families and provide other ways to support them with toys, clothing , baby gifts, medical advice, and most importantly some fun for the children who had been and still are in some cases stuck in hotel rooms. Unfortunately due to lack of volunteers and distance from where these refugees are this work has now stopped but it was a real blessing whilst it lasted especially to a heavily pregnant mum with a hyperactive boy. Many thanks to Charlie and Jill Carr, Rohita Chauhan, Alison Evatt, Kim Philpot and all those involved in helping.
Many thanks to the rest of the wonderful team who make foodbank happen week on week. I’m very proud that since we started we have provided the food bank session every week of the year through every bank holiday.
In this year we had to say goodbye to many regulars who were essential parts of the team Dan and Ann Dooley, Brian and Judith Russ, Shei-Lin Simmonds and Kathryn Mellon. But God always provides and new recruits Lucy Faulkner, Simon and Cath Brown, Rohita Chauhan , Alia Khan came on board and filled holes. Iain Cox, Tony Cherrill and Mel Stodd also returned. Jill Carr, Denise Coffee, Stuart Smith and Neil Duncan remained Many thanks all . Although as I write this Denise has just done her last session . Many thanks for her original prayers on foodbank and continuing to pray for me. I do feel she is an essential part of me being here now.
Compassion work remains very fulfilling and we always welcome new recruits so do see me if you would like to know more. Currently we have a lay minister in training from St James the Greater- Mike Rule . He is working with us as we push farther into how we offer prayer for clients. The need is rising exponentially and we are also keeping an eye on our rising costs. We also welcome people just coming along from the church congregation to see what is happening in our community so we are not a hidden part of church. Again just see me.
2023 is likely to see another doubling if not tripling of the above numbers from what we are seeing currently. So we have challenges ahead. If you cannot help financially or with volunteering I personally would appreciate regular prayers to remain energised for this work. As Tara recently said in her prayer for me ‘May it be a passion not a burden’ and as I pray every week ‘Bless all those who walk through our doors and may they know your love.’ In your name Jesus we pray Amen