Rotary steps in to help local YMCA foodbanks in busiest year ever

Local Rotary Clubs have teamed up with YMCA foodbanks in Burton and Derby to meet growing demand in what Paul Laffey of the YMCA describes as the busiest year ever in his 34 years in the charity sector.

Share Button

As part of an East Midlands-wide initiative, the Rotary Club of Derby Mercia has donated £2000 worth of supplies to the two YMCA foodbanks, topping up a regular donation made to Burton YMCA foodbank by Bretby and Burton Rotary clubs.

Natasha Aishford – Volunteer Co-Ordinator holding some of the large quantity of food donated to YMCA Burton by Rotary4foodbanks

Says Paul Laffey, who heads up a large team of volunteers, ten of whom operate the YMCA Burton foodbank from James Street in Burton:

 “When a pallet stacked high with porridge, coffee, tea, tinned tuna and other vital supplies arrived, we were overjoyed.  Demand is up by 51% compared with the same period last year, and we expect that to increase still further as the economic impact of the pandemic unfolds.  We rely on the generosity of individuals and organisations like Rotary to ensure that those in crisis in our community don’t go hungry.”

In 2019 YMCA Burton alone supported 3030 people with vital food supplies and toiletries. “Shockingly,” says Paul, “741 of those were under the age of eighteen.  We see a marked increase in demand in school holidays when children often go hungry with the loss of school meals. The same has been the case while schools have been closed during lockdown. The Rotary Club support couldn’t have come at a better time.”

The YMCA foodbank requires no referral before people can access supplies.  Many of the people it now serves are in work but reduced hours or furloughed, which mean they simply can’t make ends meet.

Rotary4foodbanks uses money donated by clubs, supporters and from the foodbanks themselves, and applies its buying expertise to source food for foodbanks at prices they could not achieve. It also elicits donations from food processing companies. The scheme is supported by regional transport and logistics companies which provide staff and transport free of charge to ensure supplies get to where they are most needed. 

Derby club steps up to the plate

It was when lockdown stopped Rotarians holding their regular meetings that the 27 members of Mercia Club in Derby took the initiative to help.  Alan Mason, secretary of Rotary Club of Derby Mercia, explains:

“Rotary Clubs exist to do charity work in the community and beyond.  When we couldn’t meet, members agree to pool the money we would have each spent attending our regular evening meetings and feed it into the Rotary4foodbanks project.  Very quickly we raised £2000 and were delighted to see it turned into food and supplies to help local foodbanks in Derby and Burton.

“Like other clubs in the region we plan to continue working through the Rotary4foodbanks initiative to ensure that the money we give stretches further to help the most needy.”

Problem will get worse

Paul Laffey believes that demand for the foodbank services will increase as recession bites. “We already have a team of ten brilliant new volunteers staffing the foodbank, and the generosity of the community and the likes of Rotary has been superb,” he says. “Additionally, we are now looking to secure further funding to employ a foodbank co-ordinator to ensure that we can keep up with demand.”

Rotary too is gearing up to provide more support for foodbanks across the region and beyond. While the Rotary4foodbanks scheme is currently operating only in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire, the plan is to roll it out more broadly.  “Our members tell us there is a crying need for a similar service to support foodbanks elsewhere in the country.  In the North East especially, Rotarians are looking to utilise the scheme to help meet that demand,” says the scheme’s co-ordinator, John Cavey.

Eventually, Rotary hopes that the government will also give financial backing to grow the scheme nationally.  “Until then,” says John, “we are relying on the generosity of the public and businesses to see us through.”

Anyone wanting to help in the Rotary4foodbanks programme – or foodbanks requiring support – can contact John Cavey at or Tel: 07855 299443

Support the Rotary4foodbanks scheme by sharing this article and donating on our Just Giving page

Anyone wanting to support the work of Burton YMCA foodbank can contact Paul Laffey on 01283 547211.

Share Button

Posted in: Rotary4Foodbanks