Local foodbank receives a grant to support people in crisis

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Somer Valley Foodbank got a much-needed boost to its finances earlier this month thanks to a £3,500 grant through us. The funding will help the foodbank continue its work supporting local people in crisis.

The foodbank – which operates foodbanks in Midsomer Norton, Radstock, Paulton and Peasedown St John – has more than 70 active volunteers and relies on voluntary food donations. Their only expenses are the cost of paying for a warehouse to store the donations and maintaining a van to distribute the goods to the four foodbanks, and that’s where we could help by making a grant that will really make a difference.

Sue Turner, Chief Executive of Quartet Community Foundation said: “Anyone can reach crisis point and it’s important organisations such as Somer Valley Foodbank are here to help when that happens. We’re delighted that the grant will help feed local people and also offer a friendly welcome, emergency food and encouragement to find solutions to problems so they can move out of crisis.”

Demand for the foodbank is growing – they gave out 16% more food parcels over the 12 months to April 2018 and Christmas is always a really busy time, when demand often doubles.

Volunteer power

The foodbank relies on the work of committed volunteers such as Paul Woodward, Manager of Somer Valley Foodbank. Paul says: “I want to give something back, lots of us are retired and have time to give. We’re trying to get people out of a crisis. We’ve had a few tears from people coming through the doors. We offer a cup of tea, a listening ear, they might want to talk or they may just want to get the food and get out. People are referred by the Citizens Advice Bureau, DHI, schools and housing associations and they’re all given a leaflet (showing them where to get help with benefits, debt advice, etc). Many come because of delays in their benefits.”

Volunteer Claire worked at Nationwide for 30 years, and could see that some of her clients were under financial pressures so, now retired, she wanted to do something to help: “A friend who’s involved with the foodbank said ‘become a volunteer’. The training was very good. We opened a foodbank in Paulton in July and the four foodbanks are entirely staffed by volunteers.

“I like chatting to people, doing up the orders, you do get to know people if you see them a few times. I feel humble working here, I tell all my family they should give their time to help others, I’m trying to educate people.”

Busy run up to Christmas

Paul Woodward said: “We ask clients if they’re vegetarians, if there’s anything they can’t have or don’t like, if they have pets and then start packing. We offer them tea and cake and they can select some ‘help yourself ‘ items too, and there are also some toiletries, sanitary products, and other cleaning products. On a Monday here in Midsomer Norton we’ll see between five and eight people in crisis. At Christmas this can go up to 15 people in crisis each week.

“This year we had more people coming during the school summer holidays so next year we’re going to do two annual collections at Tesco rather than one to help us cope over the school summer holidays.”

In total the four foodbanks helped 1907 people between April 2017-March 2018. So do they need more food? “We need to keep four tonnes of food in the warehouse and it recently went down to 2.4 tonnes. This is emergency food for local people so we need to keep the supplies up” explains Paul Woodward.

The next few weeks will be very busy for the foodbank, as they will be out asking for extra donations to boost supplies and expect to see increased numbers of people coming through their doors each week who need support in the run up to Christmas.