Kind-hearted staff at a care organisation have made a pledge to support a much-needed foodbank in Wrexham.
The team at the Pendine Park Academy will make bi-monthly donations to the foodbank at the Ark Community Centre in Rhosddu.
The Academy is the in-housing training arm of Pendine Park, which has seven care homes in Wrexham and one in Caernarfon, and also works with other care providers along with Communities First and the Prince’s Trust.
The foodbank was established by local churches and community groups.
It provides emergency parcels containing three days’ supply of emergency food to people referred by a frontline professional, such as Citizens’ Advice, housing associations or children’s centres.
Over the last year 4,752 three day emergency food supplies were provided by Wrexham Foodbank.
Pendine Park Academy staff members, Sara Morse, Joyce Williams, Kelly Humphreys and Rebecca Griffiths took along the first food donations and met Sally Ellinson, the Wrexham food bank project manager, to hear all about how the project works.
Sara Morse was amazed at the size of the operation and the volume of food required to keep people in crisis fed.
She said: “Our manager Ann Farr came up with the suggestion that we make a regularly commitment to helping the food bank with regular food donations. We all thought it was a great idea and agreed and now we are going to be making a regular bi-monthly donation.
“Ann is now writing to staff of all of Pendine Park’s care homes asking they join with us so we can really make a big difference.”
Trainer Joyce Williams, said: “I had absolutely no idea just how big an operation the food bank is. The warehouse is huge but unheated and the volunteers who are running the food bank deserve huge credit for the vital work they do.
“I was interested to hear how people qualify for a food parcel and it’s very different to what I imagined. I never realised people needed to obtain a voucher from an outside agency such as Social Services or a doctor first.”
Assessor Rebecca Griffiths agreed and added: “It really is an important facility for the people of Wrexham and it’s thought provoking that so many people get into a crisis, often not of their own making, and need help. The food bank volunteers are amazing.
According to Sally Ellinson, most people are no more than three months away from a crisis and the need for urgent help.
She said: “It may be the loss of their job or a delay in benefits. It may be an unexpected death and the cost of funeral expenses or a sudden illness that prevents people from earning a wage.
“It’s a total misconception that we just hand food out to drunks and drug addicts. Service users need a voucher before they receive a food parcel. Vouchers can be given by Social Services, doctors, teachers, staff from the job centre or even council departments
“That’s very important as it means we don’t have to judge people, which is not our job. We can get on with the task of feeding those in need and leave assessments to the professionals.”
She added: “And the general rule is food parcels are limited to no more than three in a six month period.
“Having said that, if we know someone is in absolute desperate need, let’s say we know they won’t get their salary or benefits for 10 weeks, we would of course endeavour to help them.”
“We used to live in caring communities that looked after each other. Today everyone is much busier and there often isn’t time to help a neighbour. But we find people are really generous and helpful when it comes to donations to the food bank.
“It meant that between April and September, we distributed 940 parcels feeding 2,056 of which 683 were children. The main reason for referral was benefit delays or changes and low income being the second main reason for referral.
“But there were lots of other reasons too, including sickness, domestic violence, unemployment, delayed wages and debt.”
Sally says the food bank is always in particular need of certain food items as well as money so they can pay rent on their warehouse and cover administrative costs.
She said: “We always need 200ml cartons of fruit juice, tinned meats such as ham or corned beef, tinned rice pudding, fruit, vegetables and tomatoes. We are always in need of coffee too.
“We do tend to have a lot of cereal, tinned soups, pasta sauce, potatoes, sugar and cereal. Not that we would ever reject any donations, they will all be used.
“And we would ask that people check use by dates before they donate food items. We have had some remarkably out-of-date items donated including a jar of golden syrup that didn’t look very good and had a use by date of 1996!
“We find people clear a house after a relative has died and think they should pass on the unused food but if it’s out or very close to the use by date we simply can’t use it and have to throw it away.”
Sally says she is delighted to have received the first donation of food from Pendine Park staff.
She said: “It means a lot and will certainly help. It really helps if we have regular donors helping us and they know what items of food we are in desperate need of.
“Everyone can donate at our fixed collection points at the Tesco and Sainsbury stores in Wrexham or by dropping items off at the actual food bank behind St James’ Church on Rhosddu Road.”
Ann Farr added: “We have a great, big-hearted team who take a particular interest in matters involving the community they serve.
“Our association with organisations like Communities First and the Prince’s Trust has been invaluable and has helped deepen our sense of social responsibility.”