As we approach winter 2020 and the start of a new decade, the change to a new year brings not only new challenges and demands, but also the marking of the 10 year anniversary of Smethwick Foodbank. At Smethwick CAN, our mission has always been to ensure that no one in our community goes to bed hungry, and at this point in time, on the brink of a second national lockdown, the vote against the call from opposition MPs and the Marcus Rashford campaign to extend Free School Meal provision across all holidays until Easter 2021, the end to the furlough support scheme on the horizon and the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments still unchanged, this mission is even more important than ever before.
Since April 2020, we have seen unprecedented numbers of local families needing our assistance. In the whole of 2019, we provided three-day food parcels to 5,918 people (3,480 adults and 2,438 children) – this year, in the period between April and October, we have provided food to more than 9,961 people (6,128 adults and 3,833 children), many of whom had never needed a Foodbank before. We predict that by the end of March 2021, this will have risen to over 20,000 people.
During the first lockdown, we worked closely with a number of local charities and statutory bodies, providing food parcels for them to distribute directly to the families that they support. Including these food parcels, we have provided 118,449 meals since April this year.
Obviously, none of this could have been achieved without the support of our community and our very generous local donors. In addition to the support and donations that we have received from businesses and organisations such as Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, British Gas, Midcounties Co-Op and Fareshare UK, we have received continuous food and financial donations from our local community: other churches such as Warley Baptist Church, St Mary’s Bearwood, Kings Community Church and Smethwick Old Church have organised regular collections; Global Foods and Najran Direct Building Supplies have set up collection points and despite being unable to have the usual visits from Foodbank staff at Harvest Festival assemblies, many local schools still organised Harvest collections for us this year in some very creative ways!
We have been utterly blown away by the energy and support of the Bearwood community who set up weekly street collections at the start of lockdown, many of which are still going strong. In total, the people of Bearwood have donated over 14,000kg of food via the street collections.
In addition to this we have had a local artist selling her prints to fundraise for Foodbank; West Bromwich Albion fans donating to Smethwick Foodbank instead of paying to view matches online via the #CharityNotPPV campaign; a crowdfunder to buy shopping trollies for our clients who travel on foot; many donations of food and hygiene products donated from our Amazon Wishlist, as well as donations from Smethwick Rotary Club, Ash Lodge Nursing Home and other organisations who have raised money on our behalf.
The commitment and dedication of our team of volunteers has been astounding: we are so lucky to have such hardworking, resilient and compassionate team and we are so grateful for all of their efforts.
I cannot stress enough: every donation, big or small, makes a difference. Thank you so much for everything that you have donated, all of the social media shares, the offers of help, the petitions that you have signed on our behalf, and we would urge you all, if you can, to donate during the coming months. The last seven months have only been the beginning.
Thank you, Smethwick for your tremendous and unprecedented support in recent months and the difference your donations and activism will make this winter. Together, we will get through this and make sure that no one in our community goes to bed hungry.