“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…”
The Food Bank was formed by members of two local Christian churches, St George's RC Church and St Peter's. The aim was to support locals in the community who were in food poverty or crisis situations by directly putting the gospel message into action, to love our neighbour as he had loved us.
"On the 10th of December 2014 we opened our doors. That was a great day. It was the day two Christian churches opened their doors and hearts to their local community."
- Colm Lennon, Former Foodbank Chair.
The Food Bank has gone from strength to strength since opening less than three years ago. We have gone from supporting three households a week to an average of fifteen; up to fifty people each week receive tinned consumables, toiletries, store cupboard items and fresh fruit and veg from the Foodbank.
In early 2017, following successful funding bids, we were able to employ our first full member of staff, a part-time coordinator. We also gained official charity status!
Our volunteer pool has also expanded beyond the two original churches and we now welcome volunteers from across the local community and beyond, from all denominations and backgrounds.
The main aim of the Foodbank is to provide food and essential toiletries to individuals and families who find themselves in crisis in urgent situations or in food poverty.
We are only designed as short-term support, for 4 – 8 visits. But the reality of many people’s crises is that they take longer to resolve which we understand.
Our goal is to support someone not just to have enough food, but to be able to live a decent quality of life, and this may mean supporting them for longer to get them stabilised and back on their feet.
We want to help people to have access to regular and substantial meals. We are able to offer tinned and dried food and also fresh fruit and vegetables which are delivered weekly by food waste distribution charity Fareshare.
We also have a store cupboard where items such as baking ingredients, condiments, gravy and stock and other ingredients are kept that clients can use to cook.
Some people we support, however, have no income at all. This means they are unable to buy any shopping, so in addition, we supply toiletries, toilet rolls, nappies, washing up liquid and powder and some household items such as tin foil.
We are here not just to provide food, but also to support the person as a whole and this includes healthy living and being resourceful.
Through grants and fundraising we have been able to run schemes such as free bus passes, Tesco vouchers, a ‘Recipe of the Week’ and stockings and presents for children at Christmas time.
We also have drop-in support from services such as MIND, Money Advice Plus, Home Group and Brighton and Hove Energy Co-Op.
Contact with these services enables clients to address the reasons for their food poverty and work towards a solution.
We aim to provide a welcoming a non-judgemental space for people coming to use the Foodbank and to understand the myriad reasons someone may end up in food poverty.
Below is a clients' experience in their own words.
The first time I walked in to the foodbank was with my partner. We’d just moved in together and because of a mistake by the benefits office we were only getting money for one of us. We were pretty desperate at the time as we were estranged from our families so had nowhere else to turn. When we walked in we were met by Zoe’s beaming smile. I think that first week I just sat there and let my partner do most of the talking as I was on the verge of tears the whole time. I cried most weeks that we went to the foodbank mostly from relief but also because I couldn’t believe there were people who were so willing to help us. Everyone I spoke to had a welcoming smile and just seemed to care about us even though they didn’t know us. When both our benefits were finally reinstated we were almost sad about not having our weekly trip across the road to see the lovely volunteers at the foodbank.
Ros is Chair of the Foodbank
Zoe is Vice-Chair of the Foodbank
Fabiola de la Garza
Fabiola recently joined as Treasurer