MK Food Bank: Helping people in need this Christmas
December 8, 2017
Looking forward to Christmas dinner including a succulent turkey with crispy skin, roast potatoes, hot vegetables and gravy? Well, try to spare a thought for people in Milton Keynes who will struggle to get food on the table this festive season.
Milton Keynes Food Bank already has, working over the past few months to give people who don't have much to eat something to look forward to this Christmas. Running since 2004, the food bank currently provides 11,000 to 12,000 food parcels a year, a sharp rise from the 1,000 food parcels it was providing annually when it first opened. The number of parcels reached a peak in 2014 of 14,500.
The food bank's motivation is simple according to project manager John Marshall: "It is a recognition that in the community there are people who can't get enough food on the table for themselves or their families.
"It is bizarre that in a rich city at one end you have people come to the big shopping centre and spend lots of money yet a mile away in some parts of the city you have got people who are struggling every day."
Alarmingly, one in five children in Milton Keynes is malnourished and although it is worse elsewhere in the country, one is one too many.
Around 60 volunteers help at the food bank from picking up food at supermarket collections to putting the food parcels together.
Each parcel feeds a family for three days and people have to be referred to the food bank by organisations such as Milton Keynes Council, Citizens Advice and doctors' surgeries. They can only visit the food bank five times in a 12-month period. The parcels are put together at the food bank's depot in Stacey Bushes and are distributed at special sessions in various locations around the city throughout the week.
As well as volunteers, people such as district nurses and midwives spend time at the food bank to find out more about what the volunteers do and often companies send their employees along to spend time at the food bank as part of their corporate responsibility programmes.
Its delivery van was donated by Mercedes and the food bank's depot was provided by the MK Community Foundation at great discount.
John said Milton Keynes was a very giving city: "Milton Keynes has grown up between the various established communities. There are different parts of Milton Keynes that have their own character. Across those communities, whether traditional or new, there seems to be a heart for helping people."
Around half of the food that comes to the food bank is from collections at supermarkets with the rest from churches, mosques, temples and community organisations. Schools also get involved by holding their own collections.
"We had a good harvest season where schools and churches did a big collection for us which put us in a good position for Christmas and the winter.
"As well as the main Christmas parcel there is a Christmas hamper programme. Like other small charities by the time we get to Christmas holidays, we are doing our own thing so we need to close. The Christmas hampers are so people who struggle over Christmas when agencies won't be there have something to see them over the period."
Quite a lot of food bank users face issues such as redundancy and debt, but some have more deep-seated problems such drug, alcohol or gambling addictions. Although the food bank's purpose is as a short term fix, it can help people with other problems find other support.
"It is easy to accrue debt," said John. "Your partner walks out, your bank account is frozen. It makes you realise those agencies do really good work and we are part of that package of support that is offered."
Tinned and jarred food, such as jams and spreads, and dried goods are among the items the food bank is currently low on as well as food stuffs such as long-life milk and fruit juice. Also needed are toiletries such as women's shampoo. But two things the food bank doesn't need donations of are baked beans and pasta, both of which it has a three-year supply of to the point where they've had to borrow some space next door at Baby Basics.
To donate, drop off items at your nearest supermarket or at the food bank depot at Hollin Lane, Stacey Bushes between 10am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.