16 Apr Inside Colchester Foodbank charity’s busiest ever day!
“We have just had our busiest ever day at the foodbank” Mike Beckett, the Chief Officer of Colchester Foodbank charity, explained: “March was our busiest month ever, at times with as much as a 300% increase in demand. With some foodbanks reporting up to 1000% increase in demand, we have trained additional volunteers and secured additional space to better cope with the new reality we find ourselves in. We hope for only a short economic downturn due to the pandemic and expect demand for the foodbank for the next 18 months to likely remain high.”
“Last month over 46% of those who needed our help were children. We are particularly concerned to offer additional support to families in poverty, to help families stay together and to keep their head above water when they are really struggling. The Foodbank is grateful for those supporting us, especially local businesses and community groups in Colchester and Brightlingsea. One client, over 70, had been living on cereal until it had almost run out. A young mum found herself with nothing to feed her children, all home from school: not only did we supply emergency food but Easter eggs for her little ones too. We are seeing a number of people plunged into poverty by the fallout of this pandemic. One said, “I never imagined I would ever need a foodbank in my life: usually I’m donating not receiving.” With the phone ringing almost nonstop and parcels disappearing almost as fast as we make them up on busier days, donations of food items like tins of custard, tins of rice pudding, tins of potatoes, tins of tomatoes, small packets of rice, packets of 80 teabags, longlife fruit juice cartons, longlife milk cartons, tinned fish, pasta sauce, packets of biscuits, and pasta all really help.”
“Also washing pods/tablets/capsules/liquid/powder, toilet rolls, razors and shaving cream, deodorant, size 4, 5 and 6 nappies are particularly needed, and can be dropped off at our warehouse from 10am to 2pm, Monday to Saturday at 33 Moorside Business Park CO1 2ZF near Rollerworld or at Supermarkets’ collection points. People can also donate money either as a one off gift or even better commit to giving a regular monthly gift by visiting Colchester Foodbank’s website or via social media. The Foodbank keeps in touch with donors via Facebook, with regular updates: give us a ‘like’ to find out what we are up to and how you can help, even from home.”
Foodbank volunteers encourage each other and keep their spirits up with humour. “We have named the way we dodge around each other in the warehouse to keep social distance the ‘Covid19 dance'” one volunteer said. “It is risky to be out and dealing with the general public but we keep ourselves as safe as we can.” A comedy song, ‘Sweet Quarantine’, exercising in the aisles (2 metres apart), April Fool jokes and cups of tea all help. According to Mike Beckett, “Despite understandable anxiety and lots of precautions, volunteers are staying strong and keeping on because we recognise how vital it is to keep people healthy and well enough to fight off illness and emerge strong at the end of lockdown. We can only continue to provide our crucial help to those in need because of our generous community’s support as our charity relies on local donations to run the foodbank. We are not turning people away, who come with a foodbank voucher. And we want to make sure that whilst there is a need for our work in the area, we are able to provide a full, nutritionally-balanced supply of emergency food.”
The Foodbank is taking on two additional part time temporary staff to assist us in dealing with this unprecedented level of demand with thanks to the National Emergencies Trust and the Trussell Trust for providing funding. We are particularly grateful for Colchester Borough Councillors’ support, Asda, B&M Stores, East of England Co-operative, Tesco, Waitrose, Hiscox, Morrisons and so many small businesses. Also, those of you who do a birthday fundraiser on facebook for the Foodbank or use Just Giving to help us raise funds. You can also visit our partner Foodbanks at Brightlingsea Foodbank by appointment and reopened this week is Wivenhoe Foodbank on Thursdays 11 am to 1 pm at Wivenhoe Congregational Church. Also on Tuesdays and Thursday from 10am to Noon at the Colchester Credit Union building Greenstead. The volunteers are tireless at ensuring our service continues despite the present difficulties. We are grateful for the new volunteers who have enabled this to continue”