Somer Valley Foodbank
Foodbank busier than ever
Project Co-Ordinator, Somer Valley Foodbank
This year has seen a 20% increase in demand on the service but we have been able to keep up with that through the generous donations of local churches, the people shopping in Tesco, schools and businesses holding special events. In total this year we have collected 19.9 tonnes of food, an even more staggering amount than the previous year, which means the warehouse is almost full. The warehouse team have had to work extremely hard this year, especially during December due to the fantastic amount of donations and some excellent collection days at the annual collection in Tesco. During the year however, it was very different and we thought we were going to run out of food due to giving out more food every month than we took in! We gave out 17.4 tonnes and we have feed 2040 people between January and December of this year.
There are still no particular patterns to the demand and it does vary from week to week and centre to centre. The centre managers and warehouse team continue to keep the system working and make sure there is normally enough food in the right places at the right time. The greater demand came when we made a great effort to ensure that families entitled to ‘free school meals’ were able to get food vouchers for the holidays. People’s circumstances were not helped by the roll out of Universal Credit, which means they have to wait 4 or 5 weeks before benefits are paid.
This year we opened another distribution centre in Paulton because there were a large number of clients with that postal address. We were able to train a small team for that centre and after a slow beginning clients are beginning to go there for their food rather than the other centres. There are several more people wanting to train as volunteers and this will happen early 2019.
Another new initiative is reporting regularly to the deanery synod and encouraging them to get actively support the Foodbank which is a deanery project. We have seen more support.
We also continue to work closely with the agencies giving out the vouchers so that the needs of people can be met. We still have over 80 agencies who can issue vouchers. More and more schools are now holding vouchers.
This year we had another quality assurance visit from the Regional Officer of the Trussell Trust and thankfully the Foodbank remains on a very good footing. We had acted on all the recommendations from the last visit. This time, there were some minor issues to resolve but they are in hand. The main issue is to put in place a succession plan for when key members of the organisation decide to retire from the Foodbank.
I have applied for several grants and this year we were successful in getting £3,500 towards the general running costs. We have now funding for the next two years.
Thanks to the dedication of the 70+ volunteers the Foodbank continues to serve the needs of the area and whilst we wish there wasn’t a need for the Foodbank we recognise we will be here for a few more years yet!