Blackpool, Fleetwood and St Annes food banks are busier than ever
As we enter December, one of the coldest months of the year, The Gazette has been finding out what the food banks across the Fylde coast are planning during the festive month and how they have been coping throughout the year.
Fylde Foodbank has seen an increase in demand over the past year and is currently seeing between 50-60 referrals at one of its two depots in either St Annes or Kirkham, on a weekly basis.
These can range from individuals to large families. People are referred to the food bank by one of its 60 referral agencies.
The town hall, schools, doctors, social services and the like all refer clients to the food bank.
Christine Miller, spokesman for the food bank said: “A big thank you to all our sponsors, donors,individuals and local businesses for their help over the last 12 months.
“Without our sponsors and donors we would not have been able to meet the increased demand. Clients coming to the food bank receive a three-day supply of food, together with help and guidance.
“The local community have been generous in giving their time to fundraising in a variety of ways.
“Recently Heyhouses Community Choir together with the United Reformed Church Choir St Annes held an afternoon of music which raised £567.
“This will go a long way to helping to provide the little extras we put in the bags over the Christmas period.
“Others have done things such as a cycle ride, supermarket collections, church collections, drop offs and individual cash donations.
“To all these people and to our loyal volunteers who make it all happen. we say a big thank you.
“While we don’t collect clothes we are grateful to Lytham Rotary for their recent ‘Wrap Up’ coat collection. This provided people with smart warm coats over the last few weeks.
Fylde Foodbank is part of the Trussell Trust’s 1,200 food banks across the UK. This ensures the highest standards of professionalism and accountability.
Every tin given to the food bank goes to help someone in crisis while not providing a culture of dependency.
BLACKPOOL FOOD BANK
The Blackpool Food Bank and Blackpool Food Partnership are busier than ever, with more than 4,000 food parcels donated to resort families this year and close to £500,000 worth of items donated to other agencies.
Neil Reid, who founded the food bank, said: “It has grown and grown dramatically in the last eight years but exponentially in the last three years.
“A few years ago we were giving out around 2,000 food parcels a year, but this year 4,000 have been distributed.
“It’s about 50 or 60 food parcels a day – they are flying out the door.
“On top of that, we are a supplier of food to other agencies such as Street Angels and the Salvation Army.
“It is close to £500,000 in food crates that have been donated to those agencies this year .”
Neil explained how donations from people across the Fylde coast are vital for food banks and thanked those who have been generous in the past.
He said: “It’s critical. We couldn’t do what we do without donations.
“The demand is always increasing and we are always looking at new ways to acquire the products we need.
“The people of Blackpool are generally generous but the opportunity to get any food we can is fabulous because it’s so critical.”
However it’s not all about items that can donated. Neil explained how volunteers play a big part in his food bank story.
He said: “I have two low paid part-time workers who motivate 40 other people who give up their time to help with the operation.
“We are always looking for solid, reliable individuals who can volunteer. That is another way people can donate.
Anyone interested in volunteering opportunities, such as van drivers or food packers should contact Neil on 07967564903 or Sylvia Culshaw on (01253) 358842.
THE ST VINCENT DE PAUL FLEETWOOD FOOD BANK
It’s been a busy year for the food bank at Fleetwood, with around 100 people a week benefiting directly from the scheme because they struggle to put food on the table.
By the end of this year, more than 5,000 individuals will have been helped – figures which are similar to the last few years.
Run by the St Vincent de Paul Society, it opens at St Edmund’s RC Church on Melbourne Avenue, Fleetwood, every Wednesday morning, with recipients going there on a referral basis only.
The group of volunteers who run the service on behalf of the SVP say demand for its help has not diminished, with between 40 and 45 food parcels being made up each week.
Among those who receive the vital provisions are babies and young children.
Happily, there is great support for the facility in Fleetwood.
Only recently the food bank benefited from a large donation of items from Larkholme Primary School, for its harvest festival.
There is also support from kind-hearted Fleetwood folk and sometimes local groups.
Colin Brown, secretary of the St Vincent de Paul Fleetwood Food Bank, said: “We’re always grateful for any donations we receive, especially from schools, because we appreciate the message it sends out to young people.
“We give out an average of 45 food parcels each week which help to feed an average of between 95 and 105 persons,”
Some of those who receive the parcels are working on a regular basis, but their wages just aren’t enough to cover their food bills.
But a small number of them are actually homeless.
Another volunteer said: “There is a core of regulars who we see most weeks, but some people will use the service one week and move on.”
The service is supported each week by Fylde Coast Christian Advocacy Service who will work to try to resolve clients’ benefits or financial issues.
The Fleetwood amenity has been running in Fleetwood for almost a decade, during which time it has been based at various locations across the town.
But there are now ambitious proposals to re-located it in the former Fleetwood Hospital building, which is being transformed into a community hub by the Fleetwood Trust.
It is also planned that another group, the Mustard Seed project, which provides hot meals for people once a week, will also be based there