Nantwich Foodbank donation from Wulvern

By Sara Royle
Nantwich Foodbank is conveniently discreet – tucked away in Market Street Church.

But far from convenient are the reasons for its need since it opened in January 2013.

Problems with benefits, caused by delays and system changes, are the largest driver of Foodbank use.

So when the radio announces that unemployment is at an all-time low, how does this news sit with Jane Emery, the manager of Nantwich Foodbank.

“When I did the research, I expected to feed 300 people. We fed 1,200 in our first year,” Jane says.

“One client had been surviving from scrumping apples before he was referred to the Foodbank by an agency.

“A little boy was walking seven miles each day for school, until the Foodbank’s social media team found him a bike.

“For children especially, the impact [of hunger] is felt in all areas of life.

“Concentration levels are low, the children misbehave, and they’re branded naughty.

“But really, they’re just hungry.”

Working closely with Nantwich Children’s Centre, it took Jane and the team nine months to set it up and running.

Referrals are an important part of the system, and Jane is keen to convey how well they work.

“Each client comes with a referral voucher.

“It’s red, so it can’t be photocopied. It might be that a client only needs help for two weeks, while waiting for a pay check or benefits.”

And when there’s no longer a need, the agency will stop sending the client.

“Our donations are from the general public, so we’re accountable to them,” Jane adds.

“Out of 1,200 clients, we’ve only had two cases where the system has been abused.”

Once they’ve taken the first (often timid) steps into the building, clients are welcomed with fresh coffee and conversation.

This is an important part of the process, and volunteers are trained to make sure it’s done sensitively.

Jill, a volunteer at Nantwich Foodbank, says that often those who visit are “too proud to rehash their stories” but others are relieved at the chance to unburden.

This is also a chance for the team to encourage clients to take control of their situations, and to offer practical advice on debt.

During my visit, Simon arrives.

Simon is homeless, and if it was not for the offer of a lift from two volunteers, would have had to walk for 90 minutes with his food package.

Despite his circumstances, he’s in good spirits and says he’ll have “anything apart from a pie”.

Jane jokes that they’re feeding him a “three-course meal” of soup, casserole, and sponge pudding.

Towards the end of opening hours, a family of five comes in.

The once well-stocked cupboards look almost bare once we’ve finished packing their bags.

I ask what sort of things the team of 40 volunteers is in need of.

The list is long and includes – custard, rice pudding, tinned tomatoes, nappies, baby wipes, sanitary products, toiletries, sauces, and coffee.

“We collect in Tesco for three days in July, and then again around Christmas time,” Jane says.

Although these collections are valuable, they do not tide the bank over all year.

School holidays sees an increase in Foodbank usage, as parents who rely on free school meals suddenly have to feed extra mouths.

The afternoon is unusually quiet, especially in comparison to the 42 packages the team had put together just a few weeks previously.

It’s one of the few places where a quiet day at the office is good news. The team doesn’t want their work to be needed.

For each client who does come through the door that day, I notice there is a common thread. Everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

Donating sweet treats is encouraged, because it restores just a tiny bit of normality to a life turned upside-down.

When I leave, it’s Jill’s words that I can’t help but recall.

“It’s good people doing good things,” she says.

“And I like that.”

To find out more about the Nantwich Foodbank, visit http://nantwich.foodbank.org.uk/ 

(written by Sara Royle)

9 Comments

  1. John says:

    It’s interesting to see what’s happening during the election. The country has polarised into Left and Right with neither side conceding an inch of the moral high ground. Meanwhile, the politicians do just as they please, buying votes with empty promises. The governments of the last 20 years have made some appalling decisions whilst embroiling themselves in sleaze, and none have sensed the mood of the country. For me, it would be bamboo up the fingernails before I’d vote Labour, but that’s my choice. The part I’m definitely not looking forward to is the shameful horse-trading of coalition politics.

  2. Red Dabber says:

    What a shame Don, you sound just like all the rest of the political muppets from the blue side, fancy blaming all our immigrants for the waiting times at the doctors, whenever I manage to get an appointment I find myself sitting with the many elderly, disabled and young children in the waiting room,, not a foreigner insight only the doctors and nurses for which we are very great full of. The reason there are long waiting times at the doctors is the cuts to other elderley and children’s services that the Tory biggots introduced.

    SHAME ON YOU DON…

  3. G BOLTON says:

    I find two things in this report that I can’t understand.
    how would a school child have to walk 7 miles to school? my understanding is that transport is provided /
    And were would a “homeless ” man be going that took 90 minutes ?

  4. norma thomas says:

    Disgusting we are 5th wealthiest country in th world yet our people go hungry hang your heads in shame tory government

    • Don says:

      Norma is obviously trying to make political mileage out of the foodbank situation.

      FACT: We wouldn’t have had to tolerate austerity for the last 6/7 years if Labour hadn’t failed so comprehensibly on the economy and led us into the deepest recession in living memory.- unforgivable.

      Norma, it is Tony Blair and Gordon Brown who should hang their heads in shame. David Cameron and George Osborne have spent the last 5 years sorting out the mess that Labour arrogantly left- even leaving a note at the Treasury telling the incoming government that there was no money left.

      And it is Labour’s 13- year open door immigration policy that means many of us struggle to get an appointment at our GPs and wages being artificially low in certain sectors.

      Shame on Blair, Brown and the Labour Party.

      • I.M. Allwright-Jacques says:

        Thanks, Don, for your non-political, simplistic and unsympathetic comments. I am delighted that you have managed to restrain yourself from making ‘political mileage out of the foodbank situation’.

      • AP says:

        I agree that the previous Labour administration are responsible for the crash. But recession or not, we are one of the wealthiest countries on the planet. It is shameful that people are going hungry or are homeless in the UK. The welfare state is supposed to provide everyone with a basic, safety-net level of support. That should include shelter and enough food.

      • Red dabber says:

        Your getting some stick here Don! Political mileage, mmmm.

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