North Cornwall Labour party have been concerned about the rise of Food banks in the UK for some time. Two of its members, Joy Bassett ( Parliamentary Candidate 2015) and Trudie Dove (Women’s’ Officer) decided to visit to find out how they (the local Labour Party) could help.
They visited ‘The Hub’ in Wadebridge in the morning. This is where food is weighed out & sorted into different pack sizes according to who is receiving it (i.e. single person, family, couple), by volunteers. The boxes provide 3 days of nutritionally balanced emergency food to people who are in crisis.
Trudie said “anyone can need a food bank, it is a myth that users are all drug addicts and alcoholics who have spent their money unwisely”
Volunteers at the food bank carry out several different roles, from dividing & weighing food to handing out food, chatting & making tea or collecting data in the office to help ensure proper use of the service.
Joy said “There are changes in the benefit system that could leave people without any means of support for 6 weeks!”
This is backed up by anti poverty charity ‘The Trussle trust’ who run a network of over 400 Food Banks. They say that the 6 week wait for the first payout of universal credit will lead not only to many more food bank referrals, but also spiralling debt, inability to pay rent, eviction and mental health problems.
The boxes prepared at the hub are distributed to local food banks in Wadebridge, Bodmin, Padstow & Camelford.
In the afternoon Joy and Trudie visited The Bodmin food bank, run by volunteer Jaqui White.
The afternoon was spent chatting to volunteers and users of the facility, but also discussing with Jackie ways in which Labour could offer support. Jackie said that people who come to the food bank are often lacking in personal care items such as tooth paste and deodorant. Trudie had been aware of this for some time, & in fact last year collected women’s’ sanitary items (from friends, family & Labour members) to be distributed from local food banks.
Jackie said that without basic items like deodorant, razors etc, it was difficult for people to go for job interviews. “It’s a question of peoples’ dignity” said Trudie.
Trudie discussed with Jackie the idea of making up ‘Dignity Bags’. The bags would be made of recycled fabric and contain personal care items, donated by labour party Members. The bags could then be distributed from the Food Bank.
Those who use the Food bank, apart from receiving emergency food supplies, also get the chance to have a chat with volunteers over tea & biscuits.
Joy suggested the idea of developing this further by setting up an advisory service at the food bank. Joy explained that Bodmin Labour Party had a pool of members who were able to give advice on benefits, women’s aid, legal & housing problems. Jackie was enthusiastic to put this into place, so definitely a possible area for development in the future.