On Friday, 20th April 2012, we opened a Foodbank in Christ Church to help people who are facing temporary crises in their lives which make it hard for them to put food on the table for themselves and their families. Soon after opening we realised how high the demand was for the Foodbank and the centre at Christ Church was closely followed by one at the Baptist church. We then expanded to Halstead and Witham. We are part of a network of over 420 Foodbanks across the UK, operated under the auspices of The Trussell Trust. The Trussell Trust's goal is for every town to have a Foodbank. At present two new Foodbanks are launched every week and there are approx. 30,000 Foodbank volunteers across the country. 8318 tonnes of food was donated by the public to Foodbanks around the country in 2013-14.
Why do we need a Food Bank in Braintree?Outwardly, Braintree seems to be a pretty prosperous place to live, and so it is, even in these difficult economic times. The shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants are full, and there are always crowds of shoppers in George Yard. Yet below the surface, there are pockets of long-term unemployment, poverty and deprivation even in Braintree. Many families struggle to put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads and heat their homes. For people on low incomes, any sudden crisis, such as redundancy (a real concern at this time), a delay in benefits payments or an unexpected bill can tip families into crisis. This is where the Food Bank steps in to help.
How Does it Work?Food from a specified 'Food Bank Shopping List' is collected from churches, schools, businesses and individual donations and, importantly, through regular collections from shoppers at supermarkets, to create a 'bank' of food which can be given to those in need. This is sorted and packed into boxes containing a three-day emergency supply of food. We need to ensure our stocks of food are kept at a high enough level so we have regular well-supported supermarket collections where we find shoppers to be kind and generous. We also regularly receive church and individual donations, for which we are most grateful. Our warehouse teams are then kept busy sorting and packing the food ready for distribution.
Who qualifies for help?This is not a free-for-all for anyone who turns up asking for food! We are here to give short-term help to enable families to cope with a crisis, and we would not expect anyone to become dependent on it for more than a few weeks. We work in conjunction with a number of partner agencies – for example, CAB, Social Services, First Stop, Homestart, Women's Refuge and Health Visitors – who identify those they consider to be most in need, and give them vouchers to be exchanged for food at the Foodbank.
How is it distributed?Those who qualify for help collect their supplies at one of our distribution centres at regular weekly sessions. Here at Christ Church we run a coffee shop in the Vestibule, from 10am - 2pm on Fridays, open to all running alongside our distrubition centre. This enables our Foodbank 'customers' to meet the volunteers over a cup of tea or coffee and, if necessary, be sign-posted to other helping agencies. The food will be placed into ordinary supermarket carrier bags, so that neighbours do not know it comes from the Foodbank. The coffee shop serves hot and cold drinks, and snacks and we hope it creates a welcoming atmosphere for those coming to collect food, who might otherwise be hesitant about coming into the church. Do come and join us if you can.
How are we getting the word out?We are continually trying to 'spread the word' locally about the foodbank. Local newspapers have carried articles, and BBC Essex and Essex Heart FM have broadcast interviews. This has made people aware of our plans, and resulted in a number of offers of help. We have volunteers who go out to speak at organisations and also to schools, both to explain what we are doing and why, and to encourage them to participate. We are very grateful for the support that we receive in many different ways.
What you can do to help?The Braintree Area Foodbank would not be possible without the support of our many volunteers, to whom we say a big 'Thank you'. We have, and still need volunteers across a whole range of activities. There's something for everyone, so if you would like to be involved or want to know more about how you can help, contact the Foodbank office. We also need to continue to raise funds through donations and longer-term funding to be able to keep the foodbank running. Please see our Foodbank website (address below) for details fo how you can make a donation. And, of course, we need your prayers for the success of this exciting and much needed venture. This is an opportunity to show our continuing commitment to our local community, showing God's love to those most in need.
Visit the Braintree Area Foodbank website and find out more or contact 01376 330694!www.braintreearea.foodbank.org.uk