Northampton food bank in desperate plea for funding and volunteers to continue feeding hundreds every week

'Heartbreaking' choice for award-winning Sikh community group which set up service at start of Covid pandemic

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 12:29 pm
Updated Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 12:32 pm

A Northampton food bank is in desperate need of funds and volunteers to ensure it continues to feed around 400 people every week.

Sikh Community Centre and Youth Club (SCCYC) Northampton is having to scale back its operation of delivering meals to homes around the town because of the lack of cash.

Plus the St James Mill Road-based charity, which set up the food bank at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, has lost around half of its volunteers with most returning to work having been on furlough.

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Sikh Community Centre and Youth Club (SCCYC) Northampton volunteers at a recent food bank

But Amarjit Singh Atwal, from SCCYC, said they may only have eight weeks left of providing such an essential service before having to stop, potentially leaving people without food.

"For us it's a big weight on our shoulders, we've got 400 people relying on us every week to get food," he said.

"We're thinking, 'how can we continue with this? Do we go for as long as possible and then say we can't support you anymore?' That's the biggest concern we have got."

Northampton's Sikh community has been given multiple awards for its dedication to supporting people during the pandemic.

Sikh Community Centre and Youth Club (SCCYC) Northampton delivers food to vulnerable people across the town three times a week

From last March, volunteers have been collecting food from places like FareShare, Booker wholesalers, Northampton Hope Centre, donations from the public and a few others.

The goods are then taken back to the gurdwara where they are sorted into boxes to be delivered to those in need three days a week, with referrals regularly coming from the council.

SCCYC is one of the only food banks in the town to provide a delivery service with most operating a pop-up shop where people collect food themselves.

It currently costs around £1,000 a week to run the service and they have relied on grants from various organisations, but those are starting to 'dry up'.

Amarjit Singh Atwal (left) and Nav Kaul handing out food to the homeless at the Travelodge in Gold Street, Northampton, last year

SCCYC's stark choice is between continuing how they are for a month before closing or scaling back its deliveries and being able to go for two months before closing.

Meanwhile, Amarjit says demand for the food bank is not going down, very few have stopped using it since starting and the worst may be to come.

"Whilst we're still coming out of Covid, people are still on furlough and those jobs might not be there to go back to so they will be unemployed and using food banks," he said.

"We might get people coming off using food banks by going back to work but my feeling is we will have more people using the food bank so we need more support."

Last night (Monday, April 19), Amarjit appealed for support during a virtual hustings held by the Hope Centre ahead of the council elections next month.

Representatives from the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats parties agreed to lobby West Northamptonshire Council to get them more financial help, he said.

But Amarjit believes more backing is needed from the government to ensure people do not go hungry and so they do not have to rely on grants.

"A lot of people out there don't want to be in this situation, they don't want to rely on a food bank for food but until we start seeing a recovery unfortunately they are having to stick with food banks," he said.

"But if food banks can't support them, then where will they go? It's heartbreaking."

To contact SCCYC, call 01604 475802 or visit its Facebook page at facebook.com/WatersideConnect.