'It's heartbreaking': Four big Northamptonshire food projects call on public to dig deep and donate

Health reasons, Universal Credit and zero-hour contracts are playing a part in the rise in food poverty levels in Northamptonshire

Friday, 31st January 2020, 8:30 am
Updated Friday, 31st January 2020, 2:53 pm

Northamptonshire Food Poverty Network is calling on members of the public to urgently support their local food bank or food project.

The network’s members include charities and community groups tackling food poverty who are struggling with an ever-increasing demand for their services.

It comes as a new campaign video by Northamptonshire Food Poverty Network has been made to highlight four key food aid projects and the realities of what people are facing and why their services are needed.

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Sheena Cooper of Shop Zero in St James.
Sheena Cooper of Shop Zero in St James.

Those projects include the Hope Food Club, Shop Zero, Northampton Food Bank and Kettering Community Unit.

Shop Zero, next to St James library, opened its doors to the public last March.

It’s a case of volunteer your time or pay-as-you-feel.

It was launched by the team behind Elsie’s Cafe, of Market Street Community Rooms, which serves up hot meals from ingredients intercepted from the shops before being thrown into the bin.

Robin Burgess of Hope Food Project.

Sheena Cooper of Shop Zero said: "I think Shop Zero has made a difference to an awful lot of people, not just in the area. I think people come from quite a long way away. I would say probably more than half of them are in need and the rest of them are environmentalists.

"Today (Friday) is the first payday since Christmas. This last week we had more people coming in where both parties are working but actually the money has not managed to last.

"It's not just people waiting for Universal Credit, although that is a factor, but we are there for everybody.

"People on Universal Credit who are waiting for it will access their food bank because they will get a much more rounded selection of stuff, which they don't have to pay for but they will come into us sometimes to have some extras.

"We get school nurses and social workers ringing us up and saying 'we have a mother of five who has not got a penny can you help her'? It's heartbreaking. It does not seem right."

Hope Food Club - a Hope Centre charity - gives people with low incomes and on benefits a chance to buy essential food items at a fraction of the cost so that families can free up their earnings for other bills and parts of their lives.

The food boxes are made up of essentials, with each crate containing up to 35 items of food including tinned produce, dry pasta, sauces, teabags, cereals and toilet roll.

The scheme allows residents to purchase food worth up to £45 a month for a subsidised rate of £15 and they will be handed free giveaways – including sanitary protection to tackle period poverty week-in-week-out.

The scheme works as a co-operative and the plan is that Hope Food Club will ultimately be controlled by the people who use the service.

Robin Burgess, CEO of the Hope Centre, said: “For most food aid projects, the majority of donated food for the year comes in during two waves, during harvest and Christmas.

"Thereafter, for nine months a year food aid providers work through what they have, topping it up with more ad hoc smaller donations over the year, and the stores get less and less, with key items running out entirely as early as April-May.

"This includes tinned fish and meat, tinned veg, toilet roll, sugar, coffee, puddings. We have already run out of custard for example.

"So it is the case that Hope remains low, despite Christmas, in key categories of items.

"We do have enough pasta and beans however watch this link for a gentle guide to why we don’t need any more of this at the moment.

"We remain really grateful to donors for their generosity over Christmas, but we still have real need for some key few items to avoid running out entirely by Easter.”