Exclusive by Alan Quick
AN urgent appeal has been issued for donations of food to cope with demand at Crediton Foodbank.
Sue Keogh, the Crediton Foodbank co-ordinator, said stocks of food are currently "alarmingly low" and added that the "need is rising."
Crediton Foodbank is a Christians Together in Crediton initiative which supports families and individuals struggling to put food on the table in Crediton and its outlying villages.
People are referred and given vouchers by organisations such as the Work Club at Crediton Library, Citizens’ Advice and the Children’s Centre, CHAT (Churches Housing Action Trust) doctors’ surgeries, etc.
The vouchers are exchanged for food and toiletries on Tuesday mornings and Friday evenings at Crediton Congregational Church, where the Crediton Foodbank is located.
The foodbank is always thankful for donations of food and toiletries all-year-round from individuals, church congregations in the area, as well as shoppers at Crediton’s Tesco store at Wellparks, who place donated items in a collection point.
There are also collection points at most churches, the "Crediton Courier" office, The Yellow Bookshop, Stevie B’s and directly at Crediton Congregational Church.
Sue explained: "Crediton Foodbank needs food donations right now, please!
"The number of people referred for groceries in January and February 2017 has more than doubled on the same period in 2016.
146 PEOPLE IN TWO MONTHS
"A total of 146 people were fed from the Foodbank in just two months and our shelves are depleted.
"We would be very grateful for your contributions of non-perishable items which must be in date.
"Priorities are tinned meat meals, tinned vegetables, soup, baked beans, cook in sauces, tinned fruit and puddings, long life milk and fruit juice, squash, pasta, rice, tea, coffee, sugar, cereals, biscuits, sauces and condiments, jam, other spreads.
"Also, cleaning products, toilet rolls, and toiletries for men and women.
"Many thanks for your continuing support and generosity."
In January the Foodbank reported that its work remained steady, the number of users then similar to the last two years.
In total 206 parcels were distributed to clients between January to December 2016 whereas in January to December 2015, 221 parcels were packed and collected. (compared to 231 in 2014 and 204 in 2013).
In January that represented food for 316 adults and 125 children. The figure included the many people who use the Foodbank on a regular basis.
Sue added: "Of the 206 parcels, 50 went to two couples and one single woman. We also gave out 32 Christmas hampers to families nominated by a few of the referral agencies."
REASONS FOR REFERRAL
Sue explained that the reason given by the referral agencies for need has been related to benefit delays or cuts, but those with simply a low income also feature.
She said: "There seems to have been an increase in clients who are obliged to wait weeks or months for benefit claims to be agreed and payments made regularly.
"This particularly relates to clients claiming the Employment and Support Allowance which is potentially available to sick and disabled people."
Sue said that during the last year the most frequent referrals were from the Work Club at Crediton Library, and from Citizens’ Advice. Third most frequent was CHAT.
She added that occasional referrals also came from the Local Welfare Assistance team (Mid Devon District Council), Red House, the Public Health team, and doctors. Sue said there were a few referrals from the Childrens’ Centre, although the Foodbank did receive nominations from them for Christmas hampers.
Crediton Foodbank relies on a team of volunteers and Sue said that she has a great team.
She explained: "The tasks they undertake remain the same, namely, sorting, date checking and storing donated items, packing parcels for users who come to collect at the sessions on Tuesday mornings or Friday evenings.
"Because at each session the number of clients is relatively low, we can provide a very personal service and clients select groceries that they want.
"We get to know quite a few of these people and often hear their stories.
"The majority of parcels are collected by the clients from the Foodbank but we have delivered to peoples’ homes if necessary."
She added: "Again, last July and in December, volunteers staffed three day collections of groceries at Tesco’s for Fareshare and Trussell Trust, national foodbank networks.
"About half of the food came to Crediton Foodbank to restock our shelves and in Dec to supply our Christmas hampers.
"At these collections, several Tesco customers offered their services as volunteers. We could do with some new volunteers from local churches to give the current ones a break or the opportunity to be on rotas less frequently."
Challenges the Foodbank faces, it recognised in its report of the year, are matching the supply of food, both in quantity and type, to demand.
Sue said: "We never know when there will be a change in number of referrals nor when there might be an increase or fall in giving."
Cash donations have also been important to Crediton Foodbank.
During the year to December 2016 it received £1,400 in cash donations and much of this was spent on buying food items when required to add nutritious items to food parcels.
If you can help, please note that the food collection points are at the Tesco store at Wellparks, at most churches, the "Crediton Courier" office, The Yellow Bookshop, Stevie B’s and directly at Crediton Congregational Church.