In March 2013 two things conspired to make the PCC of St Edmund?s Church act on behalf of the hungry. Firstly a report from Leeds University revealed that on any night in the city 35000 people were hungry. This report was an objective fact finding tool, not driven by any political agenda or religious fervour, just a stark reminder of the conditions some in our society were experiencing. Secondly in the same week, our Prime Minister David Cameron secretly slunk into his local foodbank, but the news was not released to the press for a few days. What was that all about, was he ashamed to be associated with the work or of the policies that facilitate the creation of foodbanks?
Then on the Sunday following Christmas the BBC reported that Age UK had done some research that revealed that one million elderly people are malnourished in or society every day.
In consultation with the Anglican Area Dean it was decided to set up a Trussel Trust foodbank based in the Stable Centre in Mansfield Woodhouse. After appropriate training from the Trust 35 volunteers launched the local branch on April 4th. We had no idea what would happen and were inexperienced in running a food bank but we had to act. It is a gospel imperative that Christianity has a practical arm, a heartfelt desire to do something that touches a need, to respond to those most destitute within any society in which we find ourselves.
So we began small and built from a single opening each week on a Thursday to twice weekly. We endeavour to follow the guidance provided by the Trussel trust under the phrase; emergency food for local people and families in crisis?. We have a number of agencies, both religious and secular who issue vouchers to clients they deem in need. When such a voucher is presented at the food bank we exchange it for food equivalent to three days balanced meals.
We collect the food resources from local churches and national collection days at Tesco. Asda has also been generous in allowing us to ask for donations from their customers. One story which illustrates what I mean. Whilst at Asda we were asking people to donate one tin, a lady came back to the collection point with three carrier bags to put in. We explained that, whilst generous she didn?t have to do so much, to which she replied; â??I few weeks ago I was really desperate and you helped me over a difficult period, this is pay back!?
It is a real shame that food banks are a necessity in our society and I would really like to close ours down, knowing that people did not fall through the safety net. The truth however is that some do and surprisingly 6 out of 10 using a foodbank are the working poor. Minimum wage is not a living wage and people are more and more having to choose where they deploy their financial resources.
In the 8 months that we have been open in 2013 since April we have offered food aid to 511 across Mansfield District. Sherwood Forest foodbank is now well established and appreciates the support that has been given to it over the past year from those who recognise a need, to those who receive the support we can give.
Project Leader Sherwood Forest foodbank.