I've been a supporter of Telford Food Bank for a few months now, occasionally popping in to help during volunteer hour, collecting food at work, promoting the food bank and of course buying food for the food bank myself (I was actually the first councillor in Telford & Wrekin to make a referral to the food bank).
Since April this year, Telford Food Bank has fed over 3,500 people and that includes 1,100 children. That's roughly 1 in 43 people in the borough and 3% of school-age children who would have gone hungry if it wasn't for the generosity of people and businesses in Telford and the hard work of Jake Bennett and his volunteers.
On Friday I picked up a crate of food from the Red Cross office at Central Park on Friday, went to the supermarket with money donated by my colleagues at Capgemini to buy items from Jake's shopping list and then collected a few more boxes of food from different Capgemini offices before heading for the food bank in Madeley with one of my sons for volunteer hour. Then I was back out again on Saturday morning with my daughter to man collection trolleys at Tesco in Wellington while Jake freshened himself up after a night sleeping rough to raise money for the homelessness charity, Shelter. It was a manic few hours of my weekend but nothing compared to the many hours a day, every day of the week that some volunteers put in.
There is a misconception that people getting food parcels are on the take, that they're getting free food because they spend all their money on fags and booze. Of course there are people like that but the referral form is lengthy and any more than two food parcels comes with a mandatory appointment at the Citizens Advice Bureau to get to the bottom of their problems rather than just tide them over for a few weeks. Most people that go to the food bank do so because they've lost their jobs, their benefits have been stopped for some reason or because their debts have got out of control. They're people in genuine need who have to choose between paying for a roof over their heads or putting food on the table.
This Christmas there are children in Telford who will go without presents because their parents can't afford to feed them, let alone buy them toys. Some of them will go hungry too. Most of us wouldn't notice a few extra tins of beans or vegetables on our shopping bill each week but it would make a huge difference to Telford Food Bank and the hundreds of people it supports every week to have those tins donated.