Enhance emergency support for people in food crisis
Food banks across Shropshire provide invaluable support to people in food crisis. Communities across Shropshire have started their own food banks in response to growing levels of food poverty. Over the past year many food banks have experienced an increase in demand and are expecting this demand to increase further with the roll out of Universal Credit.
Initiated by local church groups, food banks are run on limited resources, relying on the goodwill of the community for food donations and volunteers to run each session. Some of Shropshire’s food banks are part of the Trussell Trust Network, but many are run independently.
Food banks provide emergency food parcels to people in food crisis. Trained volunteers assess the client’s situation and ensure that parcels are tailored to meet their immediate need.
Action 1: Support food banks to build on the services they currently offer to tackle the causes of food poverty
Each Shropshire food bank has been developed to address local need. Many food banks offer more than an emergency food parcel, however the services offered vary around the county. With additional funding, training for food bank volunteers or building partnerships with other organisations there is potential to extend the range of services offered to people in food crisis to help them move out of food poverty.
Action 2: Support food banks by creating a Shropshire Food Bank Network to share learning and solutions
Building on the South Shropshire meetings run by the Diocese of Hereford, a Shropshire Food Bank Network would provide the opportunity for food banks to share knowledge and experiences and build closer links with other organisations. Creating partnerships with other agencies across Shropshire could enhance the existing referral process and lead to improved signposting to ensure that people in food crisis receive the help they need to improve their situation.
Action 3: Improve access to emergency food parcels out of hours and in rural areas
All Shropshire food banks cover large geographic areas. With such a large rural county, transport issues can be a major barrier for people needing to visit a food bank. The preference is for recipients to attend a food bank session, as volunteers are able to provide additional support and advice when people need it most. Some food banks have explored delivering food parcels out to rural areas but have found this to be resource intensive. One possibility is to identify partner organisations who may be able to store emergency parcels so that people can access them when they need them most.
Action 4: Enhance the range of food and non-food items provided in emergency parcels
Food banks rely on the generosity of the community to donate food items. A food parcel is made up of mainly long-life foods, and may also contain toiletries, household essentials and pet food. However, in some parts of the county donations do not meet the demand or the specific dietary needs of food bank clients. Food parcels for people living in emergency accommodation can be particularly challenging, as often there is no access to cooking facilities apart from a kettle.
People turn to food banks for a wide range of reasons, and often need ongoing support to address the cause of their situation. Food banks can make sure that people are referred to the services which are able to offer them assistance. Some of Shropshire's food banks have developed close links with other services, or have created their own programmes.
Shrewsbury has the longest established food bank in Shropshire. They have developed a Food bank PLUS model, enabling them to work with clients more intensively over the longer term on the causes of their situation. Through their 360 programme they are able to offer money advice, cooking courses and assistance in getting back into the workplace
Bridgnorth food bank have developed their weekly sessions by inviting representatives from the local housing association and mental health teams, who are able to offer immediate support to clients when it is needed
More than food
Many food banks around the country have been thinking about the other ways they can offer help and support to people in food poverty. The Trussell Trust are encouraging their food bank network to develop a community hub approach through their More than Food Programme.
In Chester they are developing a Welcome Network where food banks are situated within community meeting places which offer a wide range of initiatives which bring people together to learn, eat, cook, grow, share ideas and have fun.
Food banks across the county have also been exploring innovative ways of reaching more people in food poverty and how they can introduce fresh produce into the food bank. The Diocese of Hereford have brought together food banks from across South Shropshire for regular network meetings where ideas and innovation can be shared.
Shrewsbury and Bridgnorth food banks have started to offer surplus fruit, vegetables and bakery items from supermarkets to food bank clients. As most of this food is past its best before date, it is offered separately in addition to the food parcel.
Fresh Fruit & Veg
Ludlow food bank issue vouchers to food bank clients which can be exchanged for fresh fruit and vegetables at local greengrocers. They have also developed a cookery leaflet which helps clients to make the most of their food parcel.
Whitchurch foodbank have been working with local schools to address holiday hunger. School staff identify families who struggle financially in the school holidays. Families are invited to attend the food bank throughout the school holidays to receive food parcels.