Refugees and asylum-seekers from the Middle East in Newport are getting a taste of home thanks to supplies donated to a local food bank by one of Wales’s leading catering wholesalers.
Olive oil, tortilla-style wraps and chickpeas are going into up to 30 food parcels a week put together by the Feed Newport CIC food bank in the city’s Commercial Road.
They were among a major consignment dropped off by Harlech Foodservice, who supply businesses, schools and care homes across Wales, and who have started making regular trips to drop off much-needed supplies South Wales food banks.
Their first delivery also included pallets of corn flakes and porridge, ketchup, rice pudding, muffin and pastry mixes, fruit juice, lamb gravy, and a host of other items, even including hot chocolate sticks, almond and banana milk, marmalade, mayonnaise and hot dogs!
Gemma Walker, Manager of Feed Newport, said: “We are so grateful. I had the phone call from Harlech saying they’d like to donate and then the lorry turned up and I just thought ‘Oh, wow’ – I was nearly crying.
“It was just wonderful to get that amount and to think they’d driven for three to four hours to bring that to us.
“The smile on my face was just so big because I knew how many people that could feed.”
Among them are up to 30 refugees and asylum seekers, mainly from the Middle East and Gemma added: “Refugees only get £35 a week and they’re not allowed to work and many of them have large families so that doesn’t go very far.
“We are the only food bank I know of that provides Halal foods as well as chickpeas, pulses and spices in food parcels and if Harlech are able to help us out that way it’s brilliant.
“When my volunteers came in and saw what the Harlech lorry had dropped off they were gobsmacked because it’s the generosity of Harlech and our other donors is amazing – we couldn’t do this without them.”
The Harlech delivery list also took in food banks across south-east Wales at Ebbw Vale in Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Aberbargoed in the Rhymney Valley, Barry and Pontypridd, and they have more planned for the area in the coming weeks.
The deliveries are organised by Ceri Brown, Harlech Foodservices Digital Project Manager, who said: “We have often donated to food banks but with the pandemic the need is so great and like so many others we were inspired by Marcus Rashford and wanted to do more to help.
“The effect of the current lockdown has been to leave us with too much stock so we have made arrangements and are delivering to the Feed Newport food bank and to other food banks across South Wales.
“Now that we know there is a significant demand at Newport for Middle-Eastern style foodstuffs we will try to make sure that our future deliveries can also cater for these unfortunate people and provide them with a taste of home.
“Gemma and her team at Newport and the volunteers at the other food banks are great, very enthusiastic, and are doing some incredible work and we’re glad to be able to help them.
“Overall we have up to ten delivery vans going out several times a week to food banks across Wales and the border counties because it’s an ongoing project.
“There are a lot of people out there facing really tough times and we’re just doing our bit to help them.”
Mandy Haydon-Hall, Manager of the Pontypridd Foodbank, said: “We were distributing between up to 300 kilograms before lockdown and now it’s closer to a ton with the number of food parcels up from 3,000 to 5,000.
“Hawthorn High School had asked us to support them with special treat bags for some of their vulnerable learners and the catering packs from Harlech are perfect with crumble, muffin and pastry mixes which they can easily do with their parents.
“With Easter coming up we will be able to send them out with Easter Eggs and some food bank activities because learning to cook something is such a valuable skill.”
Harlech Foodservice Managing Director David Cattrall, who lives in the Vale of Glamorgan, said: “We see ourselves as an all-Wales business and we want to supply businesses across the whole country and the same goes for food banks in these difficult times.
“Clearly because of lockdown we are not supplying the amount we would normally to our customers in the health, care and education sectors or to restaurants and pubs so that has left us with £250,000 of surplus food.
“In the circumstances the best thing we can do with that surplus is to direct it to food banks across Wales and as long as we have a surplus then we will continue to do that.
“It’s good that we are able to help people having a difficult time and we’re delighted that the food we have donated is being put to good use for vulnerable people across Wales.”
For more information about the Feed Newport CIC go to https://www.facebook.com/feednewport247/ and for information on Harlech Foodservices to https://www.harlech.co.uk/