IN this week’s Express, reporter John Deehan writes about the growing need for a food bank in East Lancashire and sees first hand its work in the communities of Burnley, Pendle and the Ribble Valley.
He joined up with a team of volunteers from East Lancs Food Bank, a non-profit organisation who deliver emergency food parcels to people in need, referred to them by agencies such as Calico and Help Direct, as well as schools and churches.
Some of the volunteers (there are currently 40 helpers) help pick the food, some pack it while others go on deliveries covering Burnley, Pendle, Rossendale, Hyndburn and the Ribble Valley.
John joined food bank manager Mark Hirst as the team struggled to deliver 117 carrier bags of supplies (containing a number of items including tins of soups and beans, loaves of bread, cereal, all in all enough food designed to last a week).
“It’s not just about giving them a food parcel,” he said. “It’s about seeing what else we can do to help. We’ll see if they are sat in the dark or if they are without heating. We don’t want to intrude too much there and then but when we ring them up the week after we may ask a few more questions and if necessary, notify the relevant agency.”
Mark hopes to double the number of volunteers currently helping, predicting an even bigger spike in the amount of people needing help during the coming months.
Mark added: “In January last year the number of new referrals was 38. That number rose to 248 in the January just gone. We’re breaking records every week. Last week it was 105 food parcels we handed out, this week it’s 117. The numbers are just going up all the time and with the welfare reform changes coming in April it’s just going to get even worse.
“It’s not all doom and gloom though. At the end of the day people are out there helping others. The volunteers who work with us are gaining valuable experience as well.
“They are picking up skills they will be able to use in an interview and in some cases, people who we’ve helped have actually come to us and asked if there’s anything they can do to help. It really does make you look at things in a different perspective.”
Read more on this story in the Burnley Express, February 12th.