School summer holidays bring joy and pleasure for many with trips to the seaside or journeys abroad but for many it means struggling to feed your family without the support of free school dinners.
For some, the Bestwood and Bulwell Foodbank is the answer to many people’s prayers as they can step in and help support families over this difficult period.
“Every year we witness a huge spike in need over the summer holidays,” said foodbank manager, Nigel Webster. “And this year we have had to help more families than the same period last year.
“There was a last minute scramble from several primary schools across the Bulwell and Bestwood area for our food vouchers to enable families to access our support.”
It’s not just the lack of free school dinners though that has sparked greater demand.
“Families also need to buy new school uniform either because children are moving to senior school or because many are changing to academies and are making uniform changes,” explained Nigel. “This extra expense on families who are already on the breadline can simply tip them over the edge.”
With improvements locally to the unemployment figures compared to recent years, it was hoped there would be a slow down in the need for the foodbank service but Nigel says that although more people are now in employment the problems encountered with zero-hour contracts and low pay mean their service is still required.
“The changes to the benefits’ system and the delays that this has caused has also created problems for many and unfortunately created more customers for us.”
The area of north Nottingham is suffering from personal debt issues as well.
“This region has the highest level of debt when compared to the rest of the county,” added Nigel. “The increase in loan sharks and doorstep lenders is adding to the problem.”
It is thanks to the volunteers who work tirelessly, collecting supplies, organising and distributing them that enables the service to run. Businesses and commuity groups are stepping up to lend a helping hand to the foodbank, which is based at St Phillip’s Church, Knights Close, Bestwood.
“We have received continued support from Tesco both in Bulwell and at Top Valley,” added the part-time worker at the charity, which comes under The Trussell Trust umbrella. “Not only do they regularly enable collections to take place but they have given us a container to aid our storage problems.”
The charity had to relocate their storage recently at short notice which created a huge headache for the them.
“I don’t think we could have done it without the tremendous help from Bestwood Village Boys Brigade,” said Nigel. “They helped move 10 ton of stock which was fabulous.”
New volunteers have also signed up in recent months offering vital help to the charity.
“Fire and Ice-the ice-skating performance team have supported us and Nottingham Building Society have not only given us community grants but helped on collection days too.
“It’s about the local community helping the local community which is terrific to witness as we are one of the busiest foodbanks in Nottinghamshire.”
A new service starts in September with the launch of the Bestwood Community Kitchen which will provide a social cooking and eating event once a month.
“Our first one will be September 22nd at Bestwood Community Centre where we are looking for volunteers to cook donated food and good quality waste food from supermarkets to provide a low-cost meal for families in need in a social setting,” explained Nigel who hopes the scheme will be a success and allow them to provide the service more frequently in the months ahead.
“Anybody can come along we have no geographical limit with adults being charged £1 and children 50p for a hot and hearty meal.”
For more information about the Bestwood and Bulwell Foodbank, to volunteer or to access the service, contact 0752 7048226 or visit www.bestwoodbulwell.foodbank.org.uk.