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Annual Report for the PACT Food Bank 2015

This is a year which has seen considerable changes in the way in which the PACT Food Bank is organised. After nearly five years of shouldering most of the responsibility for the day-to-day running of this project, Brian Edwards decided that it was time for him to retire, which he did at the end of August. This gave PACT the opportunity to express its warm gratitude to Brian for his sterling work and deep personal commitment to the Food Bank during this time. Thanks were also due to the Salvation Army for their willingness to house the Food Bank during that time.

Brian’s retirement gave the opportunity to reflect on the work of the Food Bank. Sadly, there is no reason to doubt the need for such a project in Petersfield and the generous support that it receives from local people shows that this is widely understood.

In terms of managing the project, however, it was seen that such a busy project is a heavy burden for one person to carry and it was proving impossible to find an individual to take it on. An alternative strategy has now put the whole project in the hands of a group of over 30 volunteers. Seven of these have formed a small managing committee to oversee various aspects of the work – liaison with referral agencies, collection points, and volunteers, training, and the usual chair, secretary and treasurer to the meeting. We try to ensure that each person covers only one job, and still have room for a couple of extra people on the group. All volunteers work on a rota system covering both the receiving of donations, the sorting and storing of food and the preparation of food packs and also the distribution of packs to those recommended to the Food Bank by the referral agencies. All the volunteers have received some training in both areas and most people work once or twice a month, both with sorting and storage (Mondays and Wednesdays at the Methodist Church – see below) and with distribution (Tuesdays and Fridays at the Salvation Army). So far this new system has been working well, with a few teething problems, and the general goodwill within the team keeps the show on the road.

There was also an issue about the storage of donated goods. The Salvation Army had found it increasingly difficult to store all that was being donated. Plans are in hand to purchase some additional to the rear of their premises to create a proper store, but this is a long-term project and the need to act was immediate. The Methodist Church has kindly offered some space in the interim and a purpose-built store was created in a corner of the church. This has allowed us to sort donations effectively, to store them so that packs can be made up more easily and “best before” dates monitored more effectively. Apart from the considerable amount of extra donations which came in from churches’ and schools’ harvest thanksgivings, the store has by-and-large proved adequate. The logistical problem of passing information and food packs between the two sites is again resolved by goodwill on all sides, though transporting heavy packs remains an issue.

The level of demand for this service has remained fairly constant. It is an emergency service for people in need of food support. At Christmas, however, we invited our referral agencies to offer special vouchers to clients who were not in an emergency situation but nevertheless struggling to feed themselves and their families. This brought in 31 families, who each received a special Christmas pack of enough food for a substantial family meal plus Christmas pudding, mince pies, fancy biscuits and a few toys and gifts as well. Many stayed for coffee too which gave an almost party feel to the morning.

Since the new arrangements came into operation, to the end of 2015, the Food Bank has received 64 referrals consisting of 199 people (104 adults plus 95 children). Since the PACT Food Bank opened, 2513 people (1461 adults and 1052 children) have received food support. The Food Bank continues to operate because of the generous support it receives both in terms of donations and volunteers’ time and energy, for both of which we are enormously grateful. It does, of course, draw our attention to the fact that a food bank is sadly necessary in the Britain of 2016, but the demand for the service and the generous response of the local community shows that the need is widely recognised.

David Rice
Chair of the Steering Group

 

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