Sandiacre ‘Man with Van’ provides local lifeline as part of £100,000 foodbank scheme

Retired physics teacher Pete Wearn has found himself behind the wheel of a major local initiative to keep hard-pressed foodbanks stocked as demand for their services soars.

Aged 74, Pete’s retirement after 32 years teaching has been anything but quiet. Since 2005 he has been chair of the Long Eaton and District 50plus Forum and a committed supporter of the successful New Basford-based ShoeAid charity.

Now he is quite literally one of the driving forces behind Rotary4foodbanks, an initiative to help ensure no-one across the East Midlands and South Yorkshire goes hungry as a result of the Covid crisis.

Man with a van Pete Wearn makes a Rotary4foodbanks delivery to Patrizia Canova, volunteer at St John’s Foodbank in Kirkby Woodhouse.

The Rotary4Foodbanks scheme, run entirely by volunteers, is an East Midlands and South Yorkshire initiative which pools funds and bulk buys staple food supplies at wholesale prices which it distributes to foodbanks across the region.  By the end of July it will have distributed food with a wholesale value of around £100,000 and has plans to extend the scheme as demands on foodbanks continue to rise.

Says Pete: “I had bought a van to transport the kit I use to stage physics demonstrations to primary schools but during lockdown it was sitting idle.  So when my fellow Rotarians said they needed help distributing food pallets to some of the 50 foodbanks across the region, I was only too happy to get behind the wheel and help out.

“The team at ShoeAid offered space in their warehouse for me to store the bulk deliveries of vital food supplies – coffee, tea, tinned fruit, custard and cereals – which I then drive out to around a dozen foodbanks across the region.”

Pete, who lives in Sandiacre with his wife Pat, also a retired teacher, says his work has met with a fantastic response.  “There are so many dedicated volunteers in foodbanks working to stave off hunger amongst some of the region’s most vulnerable individuals and families.  They need and deserve all the help we can give them.  The Rotary4foodbanks programme is a brilliant way of doing that.”

He follows strict hygiene and social distancing measures wherever possible, sanitising the van between drops.  Does he feel at risk himself?  “There is a risk of course,” he says, “and we must all be extra vigilant.  But I am pretty fit – I’ve cycled over 800 miles since the start of lockdown – and that works in my favour.”

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. Here in the East Midlands we are leading the way,” 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.”

Rotary4foodbanks has launched a just giving page for anyone who wants to donate to help alleviate hunger.

You can support Rotary4Foodbanks through our JustGiving page

Pete Wearn receives thank you from Derbyshire Lord Lieutenant

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