Chesterfield Foodbank fears that due to Covid restrictions this year they will lose up to half of the five tons of vital food supplies which they normally get from harvest festival collections. But, says project co-ordinator Pat Evans, the generosity of churches, supermarkets and organisations like the Rotary Club will help to see them through the tough winter ahead.
Before the pandemic, Chesterfield Foodbank, part of the Trussell Trust, operated from four centres in the area. “Immediately the pandemic struck we lost volunteers, many of whom are older and needed to shield,” says Pat, “so we had to close two of our operations.”
Almost all of the people and families they support are referred to the foodbank via agencies. One in every three were referred by the local Job Centre which also closed its doors.
“We had to change the way we operated. We lost the scope to meet, greet and chat with those in need. Instead we took vouchers by email and people collected bags of food from our doorsteps. That was hard for everyone – we offer more than food; we give help, advice and a listening ear and that really matters.”
“Thankfully,” says Pat, who took over the foodbank operation in November last year, “we started with good stock levels, but they were quickly depleted. It has been the generosity of the general public, supermarkets and Rotary that has seen us through. Morrisons, Asda and Tesco have been brilliant. Then our local Rotary Clubs in Bolsover, Chesterfield and Scarsdale stepped in with big donations to buy vital food supplies to meet demand.”
Now the foodbank team at Chesterfield has a new lifeline. Rotary4foodbanks, a regionwide scheme to pool funds and buy food at bulk discounted prices for around 50 foodbanks across the East Midlands and South Yorkshire, has made its second Chesterfield delivery – pallets containing over 80 cases of coffee, tinned meat, tinned fruit and other stock items and has pledged to support foodbanks throughout the coming winter and beyond.
Says Rotary4foodbanks’ project leader, John Cavey:
“At local level Rotary Clubs do brilliant work supporting charities and communities. We could see a need regionally to bring together all that good will and use the collective strength of the clubs to help foodbanks across the East Midlands and South Yorkshire. But we need the public to help too. We’ve made it easy by creating a Rotary4foodbanks Just Giving page where people can donate, knowing that every penny they give goes directly to buying food for foodbanks. As Rotarians, we are all unpaid volunteers and so the programme has no costs or overheads.”
In Chesterfield, Pat Evans and his team have now re-opened one of the two closed centres and are trialling a new outlet at New Whittington. They are also planning to re-open their operation at Loundsley Green Community Centre. They have introduced a delivery service to reach people who can’t get to collect their vital food supplies.
Says Pat: “There is a lot of anxiety out there amongst people struggling to get by and fearing job losses or reduced working hours which will put even more pressure on already stretched family finances. We know things are going to get tougher as winter approaches. We’re here to help.” With traditional harvest festivals being put on hold this year, Pat is confident that the schools and churches will find ways to support their local foodbanks and the Rotary4foodbanks project.
Posted in: Rotary4Foodbanks