Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Vale Foodbank in Dinas Powys

One of the big under-reported stories of the summer has been the impact of government austerity measures on individuals, families and communities. The recent figures have been shocking. For instance, 13 million people live below the poverty line in the UK; while here in Wales over one in ten people of working age are now out of work, a level of unemployment not seen for almost twenty years.

Communities can act to combat local poverty and hidden hunger by supporting schemes such as foodbanks. The Trussell Trust acts as an umbrella organization for foodbanks across the UK. The Vale Foodbank was established under this umbrella in October 2011. It is based at Coastlands Family Church in Barry, and aims to open food distribution centres around the Vale of Glamorgan to help people who are struggling to make ends meet.

A Vale Foodbank distribution centre opened today in Dinas Powys, in the Bethesda Chapel. It will open for an hour every Wednesday. Free emergency food supplies will be exchanged for vouchers given to people particularly identified as being in need by social workers, doctors, police and other community groups (in total 40 partners across the Vale). One voucher can be exchanged for enough food for three days.

Mike Grove from Bethesda Chapel welcomed people to the official opening this afternoon. Susan Lloyd-Selby, the Vale Foodbank co-ordinator, then talked about the success of their first year, in which they have managed to feed everyone who has been referred to them. When they started they expected to feed 800, but in fact have fed 1,643 people since October 2011.

Of those referred, 30% have been plunged into crisis due to delays in benefit payments. Others are referred due to low income, while there has been a dramatic rise in the number in debt. 68% of the food distributed has gone to feed children under the age of 16.

Sue related some stories of the real people behind the statistics: a man who hadn't eaten for two days, a woman homeless after leaving home due to domestic violence, a couple suddenly plunged into debt after an accident. She stressed that it was not just about giving food, but providing wider support and advice through contact with the regular volunteers. Sue thanked these “lifechangers” (with reference to Olympic “gamesmakers”), and also thanked all the people who donated over 115 kg of food during the past year. Future Vale Foodbank plans include free money management courses.

Photo: Councillor Val Hartrey (Chair of Dinas Powys Community Council), Jane Hutt AM, Mike Grove and Susan Lloyd-Selby (the cakes spell "Vale Food Bank").
Jane Hutt AM opened the Dinas Powys distribution centre today, just as she opened the first Vale Foodbank in Barry last year. An active supporter, she noted that action needs to be taken to stop so many people falling into poverty, especially through reasons such as delays in benefit payments and loss of tax credits. Jane also stressed that Foodbanks provide a framework for offering wider help and support, to give people back some dignity and restore hope.

The food given out at the Vale Foodbank is donated by businesses and individuals. You can donate to the Bethesda Chapel during Foodbank opening hours. Individuals are asked to give dried and tinned foods (see contact details below).

In addition to making donations of tins and packaged food, Jan and Tony Mapstone of Valley View Fruit Stores in Dinas Powys also donate fresh fruit and vegetables (they wear dark blue in the photo below).

To those who have questioned why a relatively prosperous community in the Vale of Glamorgan needs a foodbank: wake up, this is the reality of life today.

The Vale Foodbank
Coastlands Family Church, Tennyson Road, Colcot, Barry, Vale of Glamorgan CF62 9TN

The Trussell Trust:

Reference for Welsh Unemployment:

We noted the Olympics earlier. Therefore, just room to note that ATOS, partners for the London 2012 Paralympic Games, are the firm charged with assessing disability benefit payments in a government money-saving operation. Removal of benefits is fuelling the need for foodbanks. Currently, at least one new foodback opens every week in the UK.

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