2020 is going to be remembered for many things but most of all, from our point of view, for the amazing generosity of so many people and organisations.
Established in January 2015 the Food Bank provides much needed support to families throughout the Meon Valley. In recognition of our work, we were granted charitable status in July of this year.
Every week we receive requests for help from individuals and families who are struggling to make ends meet. Referrals come to us from Citizens Advice, Home-Start Hampshire, schools, churches, housing associations, the NHS, Winchester City Council and other social care organisations.
Every family is provided with seven days’ worth of tinned and packaged food, together with toiletries and cleaning products when we have them available. As you can imagine that is a lot of bags!
It really has been a very strange year. When the restrictions on our lives were first introduced, donations of food stopped almost overnight particularly as one of our main sources has always been local churches whose doors were shut. Pretty quickly though, villages started to get together and organise street collections so, after two weeks of panic on our part, donations started to flow again.
The call on our service rapidly increased and we also had to change our methods of operation introducing an on-line referral form as many organisations such as Citizens Advice started working from home. We started home delivery and, to be Covid secure, asked clients not to visit us at the Bishops Waltham Youth Hall. With some easing of restrictions, we are now able to have our clients collect their food parcels if they are able. Some, however, do not have access to a car.
By the summer we were supplying food to typically 10 to 12 different families each week roughly double our usual pre-Covid demand. In the period before Christmas that number rapidly increased and we found ourselves supporting over 25 families each week. Part of that increase came from our offer to support directly those families whose children normally have free school meals.
The one dark cloud on our horizon relates to our current base. The Youth Hall and the adjacent buildings are likely to be demolished once planning has been granted to the developer. To date we have been unable to identify any appropriate premises in Bishops Waltham from which to carry on our work.
We continue to be amazed by the generosity of individuals and local organisations who have provided us with both food and money. Sainsbury’s, Meon Valley Lions, several Rotary Clubs, Bishops Waltham Parish Council, a teachers’ union, local construction companies and many individuals have all donated to us. This has put us in strong position to continue helping families in 2021.