How can we help our local neighbours in need this Christmas

Many of us are already in the throes of Christmas planning, ordering the turkey and joints of meat, stocking up on sweets and treats and preparing for Stir Up Sunday to make the family’s Christmas pudding.  There’s already so many lists and things to action, gift purchases, table plans, decorations, menu planning – it can feel quite daunting.  Christmas, whilst marketed as one of the happiest and most joyous times of the year, can for many, be the most lonely, depressing and stressful time of year.

Throughout 2019 we have been supporting Hart FoodBank as our pub charity of the year, by raising funds and awareness amongst our customers and so, as Christmas is fast approaching, we thought it important to catch up with our favourite charity to see what they’ve been up to and how they’re preparing for one of their busiest times of the year.

Hart Food Bank is a local charity, who aims to end hunger and poverty here in our neighbouring towns and communities.  No one, in this day and age, should have to face the prospect of having to go hungry and that’s why our local Food Bank provides three days’ worth of nutritionally balanced emergency food and support to local people who are referred to them when in crisis.  This local charity forms part of a nationwide network of foodbanks, supported by The Trussell Trust, working to combat poverty and hunger across the UK.

Christine Siddall, Director of Hart Foodbank comments on supporting those in need here in the local Hart community

It is arguably more difficult and frustrating to suffer hardship in an affluent area like ours than in a much less prosperous one. Ever since we began, we’ve noticed some fundamental issues that cause many people across Hart to slide into crisis. When those around you appear to have it all; health, wealth and happiness; an unexpected bill or a delay to expected income can turn a survivable situation into one of crisis and despair“.

For those of you who may not be aware, did you know that foodbanks work closely with frontline professionals (such as schools, GPs, advice agencies) within the community to identify people in need of help, who in turn can refer people to a local food bank by giving them a foodbank voucher?  The foodbanks can also offer a wider network of support, other than just food – this might be guidance on where to find help with benefits, housing and debt, or a referral to a specialist advisor (sometimes within foodbanks themselves).

Christine highlighted results from the Trussell Trust’s largest-ever piece of research into hunger and foodbank use in the UK: State of Hunger. The research shows that households who have been referred to a foodbank have an average weekly income, after housing costs, of just £50. They’re struggling to afford to buy the absolute essentials that we all need to eat, stay warm and dry, and keep clean – with 94% of those accessing the foodbanks being in real destitution.  Last year, food banks in the Trussell trust network distributed a record 1.6 million emergency food parcels throughout the UK, which is a 19% year-on-year increase in demand.  In a society like ours, that values justice and compassion, it is an affront that hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are having to be supported by food banks.  Two-thirds of those who accessed a food bank in the past year had done so due to problems and delays within the benefits system and over half of the people attending food banks live in households affected by a mental health problem, with anxiety and depression being the most common.  A very real and honest account of the daily struggle many go through is summed up by the following client’s feedback “If I don’t pay my bills, then I’ll get the house taken off me. After paying arrears, I’ve got £8 a fortnight and that’s to pay for gas, electric, water and food. It’s just impossible, it really is. I go to bed at night wishing I won’t wake up in the morning.”  This just isn’t right for anyone in our community to feel like this and with your continued support, we can make a difference and build a stronger, inclusive community.

The Hart team is preparing for its busiest time of year, not only due to the additional expense and stresses that Christmas brings, but also for additional factors that can cause a family to suddenly find themselves struggling. Examples include delays in receiving universal credit, the onset of the Christmas school holidays where a family has to find additional food to feed their family and clothing to keep them warm and dry, the drastic drop in temperature when heating a home is far more costly (or a boiler suddenly breaks), being made unexpectedly redundant or dealing with a devastating illness or death in a family.  These are all scary and, often takes just one unexpected factor, that can lead to a family falling into a crisis.  To prepare, the local food banks are welcoming donations that are Christmas themed, to allow everyone to enjoy Christmas.

If you are able to buy an extra item throughout November and December to donate, please do look for items with a long shelf-life (to at least January 2020). Items they are seeking include:

  • Christmas puddings, cakes and treats (expiry dates must be after 1st Jan 2020)
  • Tinned meats including ham and salmon
  • Festive chocolates, biscuits, chocolate bars and sweets
  • Toiletries

Let’s all do our bit for our neighbours in need

  1. Be a friendly neighbour and keep a supportive eye on anyone who may be vulnerable, young or old and make sure they’re safe.
  2. Be informed. If you know of someone who may be struggling, suggest they visit their GP or Citizens Advice. They need to go via the correct professionals in order to receive a foodbank voucher.
  3. The next time you’re doing your online food shop or walking the supermarket aisles, pick up an extra item and drop it in at one of the many foodbank drops around town.
  4. If you have time, why not become a volunteer to help Christine and her team to better support those walking through the doors.

Help us support this charity all year round, did you know that we donate 10 pence from every pint of Red Mist Ale sold here at The Red Lion, 364 days a year (we close on Christmas day), which goes directly towards Hart FoodBank resources, plus we will be hosting another charity quiz night in the New Year to raise further funds and awareness for this incredibly important local charity. Together, as a community, we can work towards ensuring no-one goes without food or the feeling that the community doesn’t care.