Stratford Foodbank is in an urgent race against time to save its Community Christmas Hampers Project, which has been plunged into uncertainty by the second lockdown.
The project aims to deliver 300 hampers to those for whom the festive period may be difficult, but the charity needs your help to make that happen, because of the additional challenges the lockdown has thrown up.
A key factor in filling the hampers is the success of the Tesco National Food Drive which starts today, but with the new restrictions in place, the charity won’t be able to have its dedicated volunteers on hand to help.
There are also worries that footfall may be lower in the store, which would also affect things.
All this is creating real obstacles for the charity, which fears without additional help, it may not be able to deliver all 300 hampers, the contents of which need to be collected by 9th December.
Although food collection baskets will be in the store between 19th and 21st November, Stratford Foodbank is keen to highlight that that they are there, even if its volunteers are not.
Foodbank manager Marion Homer, said: “Our community hamper project has become a corner stone of local community Christmas welfare. Each year referral agencies nominate families and individuals they believe would appreciate a bag of Christmas treats. Unlike our usual emergency food parcels, these nominations could be for any individual or family for whom Christmas is going to be difficult, not just those in a financial crisis. Unfortunately, with all that’s happened in 2020, we are expecting more nominations than ever.
“A key part of preparing for hamper collation is collecting food at the Tesco national food drive, but with a new lockdown how that drive will work look very different this year. The drive is still happening – it’s scheduled for the 19th, 20th and 21st of November – but we obviously can’t have volunteer teams handing out shopping lists, and we suspect that footfall into the store may be lighter.
“In previous years Stratford residents have always been so generous, but we appreciate this year we are all facing challenges. We hope people will respond by leaving us one or two items from our Christmas Hamper list in our collection baskets – either during the drive itself from the 19th – 21st November, or by bringing the items directly to us at the Methodist Church on a Monday or Wednesday afternoon between 2 – 4pm or Saturday morning 9.30-11.30am. We are asking for festive donations to be with us by Wednesday December 9th so we have time to collate them into our hampers. Items received after this date will be still be value but may be distributed after Christmas.”
Away from the Christmas Hampers Project, Stratford Foodbank is seeing an incredibly high level of demand this year, distributing an average of 328 parcels per month, up 25 per cent on last year.
Worryingly children’s parcels make up almost half of this total each month.
Marion added: “It gives me no pride to say how busy we are as a foodbank, I’m immensely proud of the efforts of our volunteers, but it’s shameful that in Stratford we have so many people who need our help.
“I find it very uncomfortable that I am employed as the manager of a foodbank in Stratford, that the reason I earn my living is because we have people who are struggling for food in Stratford.
“We have reached a stage where foodbanks are supporting the welfare state, how wrong is that? We want to be in a position where we are no longer needed, where we can close down in Stratford, but sadly the Foodbank genie is now out of the bottle.”
This month has seen the Government come under pressure to provide free school meals to vulnerable children over the winter holidays, something it eventually agreed to do having initially rejected calls from Labour and footballer Marcus Rashford to do so.
Addressing the Government’s recent U-turn , Marion added: “It is fantastic that we have Marcus Rashford helping, but it is shameful that a footballer has to shame a government into acting on something that seems to be absolutely obvious.”
Giving his view, Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi said: “I welcome the measures announced, including £170 million in grants for local councils, £220 million for the expansion of local holiday activities and food programmes, and £16 million for food charities. Warwickshire County Council continued free school meal provision over the recent half-term holiday and will also be doing so over Christmas, so this additional funding will further strengthen its ability to do that.”
For its Christmas hampers Stratford Foodbank is seeking items such as tinned ham, mince pies, chocolate yule log cakes, small Christmas cakes, Christmas biscuits, savoury treats, and tins of sweets, as well as standard foodbank items such as tinned veg and UHT juice.
Foodbank collection baskets can be found at: Tesco, Morrison’s, Waitrose, Lidl, Sainsbury’s Local on Bridge Street, and the Co-ops on Trinity Mead and in Bidford.
Those making donations directly at the Methodist Church should press the buzzer marked Wesley Hall and stand back and wait for a volunteer to open the door.
Donations can only be accepted during the times stated earlier in this article.
Stratford Foodbank is also running its reverse advent calendar again this year encouraging people to collect items over the festive period.
Details of this can be found at https://stratforduponavon.foodbank.org.uk/2020/11/08/1528/