Westover councillors made a special visit this week to the Bridgwater Food Bank in it’s new temporary location in a back lot opposite the Cinema soon to be transformed into yet another urban housing scheme. Having been turfed out of their former home at the former Enterprise centre on Northgate by Somerset County Council and temporarily rehoused, the days are ticking away for the towns foodbank unless it finds somewhere permanent.
Staffed entirely by volunteers, the food bank was set up in May 2013 with funds raised around the district including a grant from the Town Council. During these past 8 months the foodbank has served 1,246 clients in a crisis situation. Of these 835 were adults and 411 were children.
Volunteer Ted Stock says, ” Throughout Bridgwater we now have 21 Approved professional Care organisations able to issue vouchers of which the most prolific is the Citizens Advice Bureau which accounts for 63%. In the last 3 months – over the christmas period – vouchers issued have averaged over 100 a month.”
Mark Hollidge, who also volunteers his time to the Foodbank, says, “Since the foodbank started we have achieved 9,417 metric tonnes of food solely from donations by the people of Bridgwater. We are currently holding stocks of 4,853 metric tonnes. All this goes to show the need for the foodbank to continue in this town. in fact the people of Bridgwater are reliant on it to help them and their dependants through their temporary crises when they happen.”
Permanent Home Needed Urgently
Westover District Councillors Brian Smedley and Kathy Pearce were joined by Bridgwater South County Councillor Leigh Redman and Town & District Councillor Ian Tucker, who was involved in negotiations with county to set up the temporary solution. They agreed that a permanent home was urgently needed for the Foodbank and agreed to assist in identifying what could be available.
Cllr Brian Smedley said, “Around the country some half a million people are using Foodbanks which is a staggering figure in the 21st century in one of the richest countries in the world. The volunteers told us that although many of the users were people in crisis because of dire circumstances, many others were ordinary working people who still couldn’t make ends meet. A visit to a food bank will provide someone whose life has fallen into crisis with three days’ worth of balanced food. These are the basics people need to survive—cereals for breakfast, some fresh fruit and vegetables, and tins of beans, meat and fish. Whole families can look to food bank vouchers for weeks at a time. Also food banks offer extra items such as toilet roll and toothpaste, some clothing for instance. It’s not a nice thing to have to admit is needed, but it seems to be and without these volunteers peoples options would be severely limited. For this reason alone we need to keep Food banks going as long as there’s a genuine need for them and the people who run them also need security and that means a permanent base so they can get on with the job.”
One further big surprise for the councillors was that it appears Westover Ward is the number one recipient of food bank donations – so all the more reason for us to find a central location!