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Birmingham Central Foodbank becomes a lifeline for increasingly hungry Brummies
With the dark days of recession continuing to loom, increasing numbers of Brummies are relying on Birmingham Central Foodbank to receive their daily fill. Today, hunger is not just a third world problem – it’s right on our doorstep.
Situated in one of the most impoverished areas of Birmingham, the Birmingham Central Foodbank has become a lifeline to many in the local community. The charity supplies emergency food packages to those who find themselves in crisis. This can be anything from redundancy to benefit delay to gaining asylum; a situation where money becomes tight and tough decisions such as ‘food or bills’, have to be made. Birmingham Central Foodbank therefore provides the few days of breathing space needed for individuals to get back on their feet by removing the immediate expense and worry about food from the equation.
Birmingham Central Foodbank is part of a larger nationwide charity called The Trussell Trust. The charity encourages local churches to join together and donate food to their local community. In Birmingham, donations are also made from local businesses, schools and members of the public. Manager, Patricia Hoskins, explained:
“It’s a platform for people to be really generous because people don’t have to just donate money, they can also donate food”.
In order to provide food for those who need it, Birmingham Central Foodbank works closely with local care agencies, such as homeless agencies, drug and alcohol agencies and social services. These agencies supply individuals with a voucher that can be exchanged for a food package at the designated distribution halls.
The food packages provide clients and their families with enough food for 3 days, containing non-perishable items such as pasta, tinned meats and soup. The packages are generously tailored to the clients’ needs, taking into account ethnic, religious or situational circumstances. For example, food parcels for the homeless only contains food that requires no cooking.
In just under a year, Birmingham Central Foodbank has helped to feed over 3500 Brummies (including adults and children). However, Patricia Hoskins explained that the charity is more than just food. With their army of 65 volunteers, they are a listening ear, a helping hand and a supportive shield to the local community of Ladywood. Even just by popping in for the morning it became clear that this charity is truly a backbone of the community, bridging the gap between those with and those without.
Birmingham Central Foodbank not only provides food and a lifeline, but they provide hope to those who are unfortunate enough to find themselves in such a position. Patricia explained that a crucial part of their service is listening to clients, because for many, their biggest area of need is overcoming the isolation brought on by crisis. One gentleman using the service explained that he had isolated himself from his friends and family after getting himself into debt. He therefore had nowhere to turn, and could not afford to feed himself because he needed a new washing machine. He explained that without a washing machine he could not make himself presentable for job interviews; a necessity for piecing his life back together.
Patricia further explained that there has been a definite increase in the number of people using the charity. She put this down to today’s inability to live on very little because of the spiralling costs of living. This has led to evermore middle class families needing the foodbank following unexpected redundancies. Patricia said that even with the amount of people using Birmingham Central Foodbank increasing, there has been an equal rise in the amount of donations made. Patricia explained:
“We have seen an amazing amount of generosity which is one of the highlights in working for the foodbank.”
This generosity clearly indicates a pulling together in times of austerity, and a strong community spirit in Ladywood, encouraged by Birmingham Central Foodbank.
In December 2011, Midlands Today filmed a report on the plight of Birmingham Central Foodbank to satisfy increasingly hungry Brummies. You can see this report in the video below, which includes an interview with a client and one of the foodbank’s referral agencies – British Red Cross.
So, next time you are on your weekly food shop, that extra tin of beans or bag of pasta could really mean the difference between someone having the ability to feed themselves and their family, or going to bed hungry and suffering in silence. Donations are always needed and very welcome. The charity cannot survive without the aid of local people. Donations can be made through the website or by simply dropping off items of non-perishable food or personal hygiene to the Birmingham Christian Centre (B1 3QQ). And for service users – the increasingly hungry Brummies – the foodbank is open twice a week, as follows: