Bolton’s first food bank works to help address ‘shocking poverty' in Farnworth
11:50am Friday 8th March 2013 in News
THE cupboards are bare and you have no food to scrape a meal together for you or your family.
You would go to the shop, but the gas bill needs paying and the car’s MOT is due next week.
With all these outgoings stacking up, how are you going to feed your family?
This is a familiar scenario for people across Bolton adjusting to life in a recession — a scenario epitomised by the opening of the town’s first food bank in Farnworth.
The number of people using the food bank has gradually increased since it opened at the beginning of December — mostly by those struggling to cover the costs of feeding a family.
Now it helps up to eight families a day.
It is 1pm on a Thursday at the food bank base at the Well Cafe in Farnworth Baptist Church and a steady flow of clients — many with pushchairs — are coming through the door.
On arrival, they are asked by the volunteers how many people they need to feed and are given a cup of tea while they wait for their food to bagged up.
A father-of-two, who wished to remain anonymous, was referred to the food bank by the Job Centre.
He explained: “This is my second time I’ve been here for food.
“I heard about it from a friend and I had also seen them on the television.
“I’ve been out of work for four weeks. I’m a roofer and scaffolder and the weather’s been so bad a lot of my work has been cancelled.
“I come here for the kids really.
“I think if I was on my own I would just find a way to survive but because I’ve got kids it’s different.”
The food bank was set up by the church in response to alarming statistics showing the high rate of children in Farnworth living in poverty.
According to research published by the Campaign to End Child Poverty, 39 per cent of youngsters — about two in five — are classed as living in poverty in Farnworth and Halliwell, one of the highest rates in the country.
Alex Malone, project manager, said: ”I was so shocked when I first heard about the level of poverty in Farnworth that I felt like we had to do something.
“We are a church and there’s always going to be hesitation from some people about coming because of that, but we try and separate the church as much as we can from the food bank.”
To get vouchers for the food bank, people must be “in crisis” and referred by a separate agency such as the New Bury Community Centre or the Job Centre.
Bernadette Tither, centre manager at New Bury Community Centre and Farnworth parents Group, added: “For people to get vouchers, they have to be in a crisis period. It could be someone who has had a big bill or their MOT is due, or a change in benefits. It can be caused by a whole range of reasons. So when they get referred, they will have access to three days worth of food.”
Another client at the food bank, a mum-of-two, who also did not want to be named, explained her situation.
The 22-year-old said: “I was having trouble paying off my debts and I couldn’t get a crisis loan, so they suggested I came here.
“It’s pretty depressing to be honest. They’re very nice here and make it feel okay that you’re here. I come here to feed my kids.”
Debt repayments, unemployment and the increased cost of food seem to be the most common cause of food poverty here.
Another couple say they reached crisis point because they could not negotiate their debt repayments.
The mum-of-three said: “We heard about here at the job centre. We’re really struggling at the moment and we’ve got three children to feed “I didn’t know what I was going to do because I needed to buy nappies and milk for the baby. You do get a milk allowance, which helps, but it doesn’t cover it all.”
Each client at the food bank is allocated enough food to last them for three days, based on how many people they are feeding.
For example, a couple with at least three children to feed will be given about six to seven shopping bags of non-perishable food.
Clients are also given a menu with meal suggestions for the three days, such as tinned tuna with tomatoes and pasta or ham hash (tinned meat) with tinned vegetables.
The Trussel Trust, the franchise which supports the Farnworth food bank along with 280 others in the UK, gives guidelines on making the meals as nutritious as possible — even with non-perishable foods.
The Farnworth and Kearsley Foodbank has committed to three years with the Trust. Mrs Malone added: “We’ll be open for a minimum of three years but I expect it will be longer with the way things are.”
Other agencies who can refer people for vouchers include the Farnworth UCAN Centre, the Farnworth Parents Group and the Caritas charity shop in Newport Street.
The Job Centre is also informally referring its service users to the appropriate agencies.
For more information, go to farnworthkearsley.