Help our local foodbank please!

In January I had the pleasure of meeting with Stewart North and Tony Matthews founders of the Bristol North Foodbank.

The pair are both church leaders in the Horfield and Filton area. In these hard financial times they felt that, as churches, they needed to respond to some of the difficult life issues their local community is being faced with. Rather than re-inventing the wheel they approached the Trussell Trust, a nationwide charity that supports churches to establish local Foodbanks.

I was saddened to learn that, for some families, bills for rent and repayments of loans take precedence over buying food. Sadly choice is often made between heating a home and eating. Every day parents are skipping their own meals in order to be able to feed their children. Surely this should not be happening in 2013!

Volunteers Val & Kelvin

Thankfully, to assist with these situations, the North Bristol Food bank was launched in July 2012. The project provides emergency food and support to local people in crisis.  Everybody involved with the project has been surprised at the rate the resource has grown.

So how does the Foodbank system work?

  • Step 1: Nonperishable food is donated by the public.
  • Step 2: Volunteers sort and pack food into emergency food boxes.
  • Step 3: Frontline care professionals such as doctors and social workers give Foodbank vouchers to people in crisis.
  • Step 4: Foodbank vouchers are exchanged for 3 days of food at a Foodbank.
  • Step 5: Foodbank staff take time to listen and signpost clients to further support.

The Foodbank is based at the Revive Charity Shop on Filton Avenue. Whilst I was there it was moving to speak with volunteers Val and Kelvin who were unloading stock whilst I spoke with them. They explained to me that they had both got involved through the church. Through this work they have experienced many tears of joy and sadness as the people they come across are in despair at their situation and they experience relief when welcomed by the Foodbank. Val told me it takes a great deal of courage for people to even come along to the sessions, people are ashamed and in disbelief at the situation they have found themselves in. As well as the unavoidable sadness, Val and Kelvin enjoy being a part of something that actually works and makes a difference in people’s difficult lives. All their hard work is rewarded when they witness people getting help and building strength through the assistance of the group. They describe the Foodbank as a blessing, finding the work extremely worthwhile and satisfying.

Tony Matthews & Stewart North

The majority of people that initially volunteered to help the Foodbank came via the church but, as time has gone on, this initiative has welcomed many non church people too. The Foodbank is always looking for volunteers of all ages and backgrounds to get involved and give as little or as much time as they can.

The two-weekly sessions are not just about handing over food but the offer of time and compassion too. The groups are set up to signpost people to organisations that can help get their life back on track in all areas to include debt, parenting, education, training, employment and health.

The Foodbank is run on a voucher system distributed by frontline care professionals. People cannot collect food without a referral but they can get in touch with the charity to find out more.

There have been many tears shed as people in crisis receive the gift of food that they are so grateful for, as well as an understanding ear that will allow them to vent their distress and be taken seriously.

Founder member Stewart told me before they started this project they had a preconceived idea about the kind of people that would respond to a Foodbank but this was a misconception.  People from all walks of life have found themselves in dire straits over recent years. Tony added if somebody in a high paid job loses their income it can be just a matter of weeks before the cash flow is simply not there for food.

Everybody I spoke with told me how overwhelmed they had been with the generosity of people donating food. This charity has struck a cord with local people assisting fellow local people to eat.

If, like myself, you feel compelled to try and do something to assist this fantastic organisation then there are four easy ways that you can.

How can you help?

  1. Donate food to the Foodbank
  2. Give funds to the charity
  3. Volunteer
  4. Hold a fundraiser event.

With the help of our fantastic community Bishopston Matters has organised a campaign to run over lent this year – 13th February to 30th March 30th. The tag line ‘Don’t Give Up – Give’ was suggested by a concerned resident that I contacted on my return from the Foodbank. Together we have been busy contacting local community groups and businesses to ask if they would be happy to get involved. Once again the people of Bishopston and surrounding areas have of course come good. Please see the list of local venues you can donate food to (from the shopping list below) over coming weeks.

What you donate really does make an enormous difference to families in our area.

Please Donate the Following

  • Milk (UHT) or powdered
  • Sugar (500g)
  • Fruit juice (long life carton)
  • Soup
  • Pasta Sauces
  • Sponge pudding (tinned)
  • Tomatoes (tinned)
  • Cereals
  • Rice pudding (tinned)
  • Tea bags / Instant coffee
  • Instant mash potato
  • Rice/pasta
  • Tinned meat/fish
  • Tinned vegetables
  • Tinned fruit
  • Jam
  • Biscuits or snack bars

We invite you to donate food to the North Bristol Foodbank at one of the local collection points. The following Gloucester Road businesses have kindly offered to take part. Please visit them with much needed and appreciated goods from the shopping list.

Local Collection Points

  • Srumptiously Sweet – 83 Gloucester Road, BS7 8AS
  • Adriano’s Barbering Lounge –215 Gloucester Road, BS7 8NN
  • The Parker Clinic – 132 Gloucester Road, BS7 8NL
  • Artemis – Designer Jewellery & Gifts – 214 Gloucester Road, BS7 8NU
  • Lashings Coffee House – 260 Gloucester Road, BS7 8PB
  • Pearce’s Hardware – 295 Gloucester Road, BS7 8PE
  • Rimando’s Cafe & Soft Play – 395 Gloucester Road, BS7 8TS
  • KudaCan – 7 Dongola Avenue, BS7 9HG
  • Yoga West – Denmark Place, Bishopston, BS7 8NW
  • Members of GCCC & BS7 Gym can donate at the venue (not open to general public)
  • Visitors to the Quaker House, 300 Gloucester Road can donate at the venue

North Bristol Foodbank, 286 Filton Avenue | Horfield | BS7 0BA |0117 9791399 | info@northbristol.Foodbank.org.uk | www.facebook.com/northbristolfoodbank

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