Fosse Foodbank, part of the Trussell Trust’s UK-wide network of over 420 foodbanks, is administered by St. Peter’s Church in Kineton, a village in south-east Warwickshire with a population of around 2,500. The headquarters of the local foodbank is based here, along with the warehouse and a distribution centre that gives out food parcels to people in crisis. It is working with a network of rural churches to provide support for people in need from Wellesbourne in the west to Bishops Itchington and Southam in the north. We are working with the local Anglican, Methodist, Congregational, Community and Roman Catholic churches.
Most foodbanks are set up in towns or cities, but people in rural areas also experience times of crisis, with one in five living below the poverty line. The problem is exasperated by the higher cost of living, poor availability of social services and lack of affordable public transport. Today in Kineton and the surrounding area, there are families struggling to put food on the table. For people on low incomes, a sudden crisis – redundancy, benefit changes, illness or just an unexpected bill – can mean going hungry. But the problem may not be so obvious in the countryside – there is a stigma attached to having people deliver bags of shopping to your door; there is no anonymity in walking into the local foodbank.
Our volunteers have been moved by the stories they have heard. We have John, who is homeless and lives in local farm outbuildings and comes to the centre, not just for food but to use the washroom facilities and to have a chat and cup of tea with the volunteers. Kevin lives on a canal boat – it is quite a trek to get his groceries along the tow path. Then there is the couple who live in a car. And Susan, with her daughter and new baby, who have been moved into temporary hotel accommodation away from her abusive husband. The only facility she has for food is a kettle. And several older folk in the housing association sheltered accommodation, whose benefits don’t quite stretch to meet all their regular bills. We have had clients return to us to work as volunteers and even joined our church family.
We have a network of professionals: doctors, health visitors, children’s centres, churches, schools and the housing associations who identify people in crisis and issue them with a voucher. Last year 83 referral agencies issued vouchers to feed 211 people (155 adults and 56 children). The main reasons given were benefit delays or changes, low income, debt and homelessness.
Each of our centres open for two hours a week, manned by a team of volunteers. As it is not always convenient to get to the centre during those hours or if public transport is not available from outlying villages, we also have a delivery service, with emergency food parcels being taken to people’s homes by a team of volunteer drivers.
The Foodbank does more than provide food in an emergency. It works to address the root causes of clients’ problems. It can help to prevent family breakdown, housing loss, crime and mental health problems. We have a great team of volunteers who take time over a cup of tea and biscuit to listen to problems and signpost people to other agencies for further support.
The Foodbank is also an opportunity for local congregations to engage in their God-given mission – to feed the hungry (in our own neighbourhood), to raise awareness and to confront and campaign against social injustice.
Rev. Gillian Roberts
The Fosse Foodbank Steering Committee