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How it all started

Following work within the community on collecting and distributing food to the needy - both the United Reformed Church and Hope Church had good experience of dealing with the scheme, having 'grub tubs' for food donations in place for some time - Dave Bagley of Urban Outreach (Bolton) was invited to the WCN meeting in February (21/3/13) to talk about and take questions on Foodbanks, giving a background to why they are needed, take-up within Bolton and Westhoughton and how as a community network we might come together to co-ordinate this as a mission within the town, using our network of Church, community groups and even schools to establish and build a Foodbanks resource.

Sub-committee

The sub-committee made up of members of Westhoughton Community Network was established after the February 2013 meeting and has been working with Urban Outreach to establish a network of collection points for food donations for collection and then dissemination from the Storehouse in Bolton to recipients in Westhoughton. The sub-committee meets every 6 weeks. There are currently six 'Grub Tub' collection points around Westhoughton. In time it is hoped to establish a store in the town.

At the meeting it was decided to take this idea forward by forming a sub-committee to discuss, plan and implement the necessary actions to progress this community initiative. Under the banner of the Westhoughton Community Network member groups would work with Urban Outreach initially collecting gifted food collected in Urban Outreach 'Grub Tubs' which will be located around Westhoughton. Donated food would then be collected by Urban Outreach for distribution from their Salop Street warehouse to individuals and families in Westhoughton as per the voucher system implemented by the various agencies charged with identifying need and making sure those that need this help and support can be served by Urban Outreach distribution network.

The first meeting of the sub-committee took place on Tuesday, 5th March (minutes) at St. Bartholomew's Church, chaired by James Wilson; also in attendance was Dave Bagley of Urban Outreach who was able to offer their support and experience. It was a productive meeting which set in motion the acquisition of Grub Tubs to be placed at a number of locations, and a system of weekly local collection for processing at and by Urban Outreach. In the course of time it may be necessary to have a dedicated centre in Westhoughton. With activities by participating groups taking place, further sub-committee meetings are planned, with feedback to the main meeting.

Foodbank Statistics Westhoughton - Jan 2012 - Jan 2013

  • 40 parcels were given out to the BL5 postcode
  • TOTAL No. Families - 1912
  • TOTAL No. Single People - 1108
  • TOTAL No. Large Family - 96
  • TOTAL No. of Parcels - 3154
  • 180 Christmas Dinner on Jesus hampers.

Foodbank Collection Points in Westhoughton

Food donations at W.A.C.O. (Communiversity) Grub Tub

Food can be donated at The Communiversity on Central Drive; St. Bartholomew's Church; St. John's Church, Wingates; the Methodist Church on Wigan Road and The Bethel (Westhoughton United Reformed Church) on Park Road.

Tins, jars, non-perishable items; also toiletries welcome. Collections for distribution though Urban Outreach are made on a weekly basis (Tuesdays).


Storehouse and Urban Outreach

Background

Storehouse working with Westhoughton Community Network on food distribution scheme in WesthoughtonStorehouse is Bolton's food distribution project, coordinated by Urban Outreach Bolton and The Bridge Church. Urban Outreach is a local charity established in 1990 providing support for the most vulnerable adults and young people in the Borough. The charity has an excellent track record of delivering innovative support solutions to male and female ex-offenders and those at risk of offending; re-housing and resettlement for those experiencing homelessness and one to one support for children who have been reported missing from home. The Charity has operated a weekend winter night cafe called Winter Watch for over 15 years, providing a safe and warm place for people to receive a meal, shower and experience warm hospitality and friendship. The winter cafe runs between January and March: Friday - Sunday evenings and assists on average 70 people a night. Storehouse operated from The Bridge Church since 2004, providing emergency food parcels for those experiencing hardship. As the church struggled to cope with demand, a partnership was formed with Urban Outreach to establish a weekly collection point at the Winter Watch cafe premises (The Restore Centre, Pool Street, Bolton) in 2011. A voucher and third party referral system from key agencies across Bolton was launched, together with an evening delivery service to those most in need. This approach has been piloted and it is now at a point of transition and growth to develop across Bolton.

How it works

Agencies and organisations that work with people who live in the Bolton area and who are experiencing temporary financial hardship due to any of the following issues can refer into the project:

  • Illness resulting in inability to work and associated reduction in income.
  • Repayment of debts or fines or payment of essential bills such as heating/utilities.
  • Benefit problems i.e., suspension or transfer to different benefit due to change in circumstances.
  • Accommodation issues i.e. homelessness, fleeing domestic abuse, leaving hospital.

Additional caring responsibilities e.g. caring for children due to parental mental health or substance misuse. There are now over 55 agencies across Bolton that are given Storehouse vouchers and can refer people to the service. Vouchers are given to the household who exchanges it for food at the collection centre.

Storehouse operates a delivery service, one evening a week to:

  • People who are registered disabled and choose to have food deliveries
  • People who are over 65 who choose to have food deliveries
  • People who have parental responsibility for 2 or more children under 3

Urban Outreach/Storehouse van out and about making Foodbank collections and deliveriesStorehouse provides food up to 8 times (8 collection weeks), with the possibility of extension in certain cases. Referrals are logged and only one referral is accepted for each household unit. The food bag given currently provides food for about 2/3 days and its quantity is adjusted according to household size.

In partnership with Winter Watch, Storehouse benefits from the amazing generosity of over 60 schools - 15,000 children and over 100 churches donating harvest food each year to build a food bank. Local companies also give food supplies (e.g. Warburtons, Sainsburys, Carrs).

The coordination and production of vouchers, food storage facilities and the use of the Restore Centre each Monday for collections is provided by Urban Outreach Bolton. The Bridge Church provides access to food through bulk purchasing through FareShare; has a part time volunteer coordinator and volunteers at the collection point and for the delivery service. The project currently relies on charitable donations and volunteer time to operate. All volunteers are CRB checked, undertake training and adhere to a Storehouse Code of Practice. Urban Outreach has a vision to develop a network of collection and delivery hubs across Bolton to meet the growing need.

Need

Urban Outreach is witnessing an increasing demand for emergency food from Storehouse. In the current economic environment, individuals and families are struggling to feed themselves.

Local housing allowance changes, including a cap on weekly payments to those in private rented accommodation based on the number of bedrooms each household qualifies for, and an extension of the 'shared accommodation rate' up to the age of 35 is beginning to have an effect on some of the most vulnerable in Bolton. Existing renters are struggling to meet rent levels where they experience a reduction in Housing Benefit. Under occupied accommodation and those with non-dependents are also being affected. The 'rent gap' experienced will impact a person's weekly budget, thus having a knock on effect on money left to buy food.

Other issues are also contributing to food needs. These include unexpected redundancy or loss of work, delays or changes to benefits; increased fuel costs and other bills; debt and family breakdown. Urban Outreach anticipates that the greatest impacts of the recession coupled with welfare reform are still to come.

In recent months, Storehouse has on average provided 50 food parcels a week from one collection point, representing approximately 200 individuals. This has increased from an average of 30 food parcels per week six months ago. It is now struggling to keep up food supplies to meet the demand and anecdotal evidence from partner churches indicates there is much 'hidden need' within their local communities.

What we hope to achieve in the future

Urban Outreach seeks to extend the Storehouse project into a network of food collection and delivery hubs across Bolton's local communities. This would be coordinated by Urban Outreach in partnership with churches working in local communities. Church premises would operate as collection points. Urban Outreach has secured funding to purchase a food van to assist in collecting food donations and to help with the delivery service.

Urban Outreach recognise that a 'food need' is a door into individuals and families that are struggling and we are committed to providing an access route to additional support services where required. Our collection and delivery points can also act as hubs to disseminate information from partner agencies and funders (e.g. literature within the food bags etc.). Delivering to those most in need breaks down isolation, builds community relationships and provides a gateway for the recipient to access further services that they may not have previously had contact with.


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