Foodshare ambitions 2019 – 2020
Foodshare’s charitable objectives are simple; to help people in and around Maidenhead who are unable to feed themselves and their families properly. It does this by operating a food bank and by providing free meals. The food bank is the hub of the charity’s enterprise, through which it processes on average around 110 vouchers each week, which represents around 250 – 260 people helped. Additionally it provides food to the homeless shelter and young persons’ hostel, and to the street homeless, which covers around another 25 – 30 persons, and it supplies provisions 6 school breakfast clubs so that around 60 children are not starting the school day hungry.
The charity is confident in its capability to source food and volunteer resources to continue to help people on this scale and higher. Its challenge is actually to reach more people. Only around 60% of food bank vouchers issued are used, or to put it another way, 4 out of every 10 are not (this is not an abnormal statistic; food banks at Slough, Windsor and Wokingham have a similar level of uptake). The main reasons people do not use a food bank are (a) a sense of shame and not wanting to accept charity; and (b) accessibility. Those factors affect elderly people in particular.
We have two strategies in mind to enable us to help more people. The first, if people are unable to come to the food bank, is to take the food bank to the people. This entails making home deliveries as a part of the core service (something we do to date only on an ad hoc basis for regular clients who are in difficulties). We have consulted with the Sharing Life Trust, based in Thame, which have a delivery-only model of operating with a largely rural clientele. Adapting their experience to Foodshare’s operation, we would have two half-days for making deliveries, using a pair of volunteers for each round; that in total would need a pool of around 10 people, which is not so easy to find for day-time activities. However we know someone with a van who we could contract for a few hours on a regular basis. While that incurs a cost, it would greatly ease the resourcing challenge, and removes any transport constraints, enabling a reliable service.
Foodshare has a 1st phase ambition to reach an extra 25 people each week, i.e., around another 10%. Full year operating costs on this scale are estimated around £3000 (actual mileage is a variable) with an allowance of £400 for set-up cost (DBS checks and commercial cool boxes); a first year phased start-up of the delivery service would be more in the region of £2000.
The second strategy for reaching more people is to make coming to the food bank a less intimidating experience. Being in the former covered market place, the food bank is a warehouse-like facility. The reception area is uninviting, queues form at busy times, and we have to use the same space for serving the homeless (to whom we also provide food, hot and cold drinks, etc). A part of what the charity tries to do is help people beyond just providing food (they are all in some kind of crisis, which is why they cannot feed themselves properly). That support is mostly as simple as being a friendly face, having a conversation and suggesting other agencies and resources which may be able to help in particular circumstances. We are greatly constrained in doing that by not having somewhere to sit down, with some basic refreshments, with a degree of privacy.
There is no option to enhance the current facility beyond what we have done in this respect, so our ambition is to find an ancillary space, ideally an unused shop premises nearby (for example in the Nicholson centre) which we could use as a reception place. This could be more welcoming and comfortable, and give some privacy when needed. Clients’ food bags would be brought over from the food bank, so the collection process would be less obvious than queuing at the food bank.
Such a facility, with some basic facilities to enable us to serve refreshments, would also enable Foodshare to provide something of a ‘drop-in’ facility at other times during the week, which will help to alleviate the loneliness and social isolation which commonly affects people who are in need of food support. Foodshare has recently launched two side projects; one is Good Neighbours, where we collect some elderly people, bring them to the food bank for a ‘private shop’. A volunteer acts as a companion to help them chose some food they would like, then we have some refreshments, company and conversation before taking them home. The other project is Eating Well With Emily, where we show people (so far in the homeless shelter and young persons’ hostel) how to make tasty nutritious meals on a tight budget. Both these projects would benefit enormously from having our own reception-cum-café facility.
We are endeavouring to find a suitable facility, and foresee incurring some expense in equipping it with suitable furniture, fixtures and modest cooking facilities, as well as overheads such as (reduced) business rates, utilities and insurance costs. At this stage we have an outline cost estimate of £1500 – 2000 to set up.
In summary, if Foodshare were the beneficiary of funding in the region of £3-4k, this is how we would use it.
Lester Tanner, Trustee August 2019
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