Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Emergency Food Bank plans expansion

May 12 2011
A quarter of clients are under 16, says manager

West Bromwich Food Bank opens on Monday and Friday afternoons each week to provide food parcels to those in need in the local community. The project is based at West Bromwich Community Church in Victoria Street. Project Manager, Keith Turner, said: “We work in partnership with several charitable organisations, including Sure Start, Citizens Advice Bureau, YMCA and Sandwell Homes and we operate on a referral process basis. However, if a person turns up for food outside of our opening hours and in case of any emergency, we will always try to support them.”

Those requesting food parcels are offered a personal assessment at the food bank and, if necessary, will be referred on for further support and advice. Each individual is given eight to nine kilogrammes of food, which should last three days. A couple will be given 10-11kg of food. A family of two adults and three children will be given 25-30kg, again, three days’ worth of food. The Food Bank network provide healthy food designed to have a long shelf-life: food parcels typically contain tinned meats, vegetables and soups, together with milk and other nutritious groceries.

Lornie, 31, is an asylum seeker from the Congo in Central Africa, where the violation of human rights is widespread due to the current civil war. She was rescued by a missionary worker and brought to the UK for her own safety in November last year. Lornie arrived in London, was transferred to a refugee centre in Birmingham and now lives in a hostel in Walsall. Lornie said: “I needed help and financial support. I was referred to the Food Bank by my support worker. Keith and the team here make me feel very welcome and I am beginning to feel a sense of belonging.” Lornie has embarked on a counselling foundation course and will seek employment once her training has finished.

Keith Turner also said: “We can see between 50 and 60 people a week. It can be really busy as we cover the whole of Sandwell Borough which includes six towns - Wednesbury, Tipton, Smethwick, Oldbury, Rowley Regis and West Bromwich. We have been open since December 2007 and have seen up to 3,000 people to date. Twenty-five per cent of these have been children under 16.”

Colin Cook, 56, an ex-foundry worker, who is now unable to work due to a chronic lung disorder, is a regular visitor to the Food Bank. Mr Cook said: “Due to a recent relationship breakdown, I have not been able to see my young son. I am fighting for joint custody, which has been extremely upsetting, and I have limited resources. I do not own a cooker and rely on the Food Bank for help. It is a brilliant place to attend.”

The Food Bank is not open at weekends but they will help service users who turn up at the Church on Saturday and Sunday, offering advice and providing snacks if they are hungry. Mr Turner also mentioned future plans at the Church and the need for expansion. He said: “We are in the early stages of setting up an organisation called ‘Making A Difference’ which will aim to provide a drop-in service supporting vulnerable people. Counselling services will be offered as well as support with managing money that encourages people to be self-sufficient. However, our situation for future expansion is made difficult due to the new legislation from central Government and the enforced funding cuts”.

West Bromwich Community Church are also looking at the possibility of setting up a winter night shelter at their premises to offer an evening meal, bed and breakfast emergency accommodation overnight between the winter months of November and February. Details and forthcoming plans can be followed on their website: makingadifference.

If emergency help is needed in the Borough of Sandwell, please contact the church on 0121 580 0068.