Provision of Food Banks & Support Services
Our food bank provision was developed in 2014, in response to urgent local need. The service currently delivers 3 days a week from our main Grimsby site at Wellington Street on the East Marsh, which currently takes in between 150 -180 service users a day as well as 5-10 referrals a day from different agencies.
In June 2019 with increased demand The Rock Foundation in partnership with Willows Community Church, were able to open a second food bank for people on the Willows and Wybers Estates unable to travel across town to the main site. This food bank has also seen an increase in demand from 20 up to 40 service users on a Tuesday and Thursday.
Where and when do they take place?
Wellington Street, Grimsby, DN32 7JX – Mon, Wed, Fri from 1pm to 3.30pm
Willows Community Church, Wingate Road, Grimsby DN37 9EL – Tues & Thurs from 1pm to 3pm
We aim to offer a wide range of support to address some of the underlying causes of food poverty. A café style environment is provided where service users can access a hot drink as volunteers provide a listening ear. We facilitate a Fuel Voucher Scheme as a Foundation Fuel Partner, where we can give support and access to top up fuel prepayment meters. We are also part of the local food provider forum and work with the voluntary sector and statutory sector partners to ensure our cases are genuine and clients are treated fairly.
Our current nutritionally balanced 3 day food parcels include fresh food and vegetables, tinned goods, bread and dairy as well as frozen foods. These items are donated by local supermarkets as well as generous people and local businesses. We recognise that people require more than just food – the people who come to us are often at a very low point in their lives and accepting a food parcel is an acknowledgement that they are at rock bottom. The redistribution of surplus food prevents waste at a local level, but also creates links between businesses and the community, and demonstrates to vulnerable people that there is a support network available.
We had already identified an increase in demand for food provision. In March 2020 at the start of the lockdown there were around 450 parcels handed out each week.
Throughout the following months volunteers gave out around 500 bags of food each week, which went up to an average of 650 – 700 parcels. This demand has been exacerbated by the closure, of the other main food larder project in Grimsby, which was delivered by another organisation. We have also begun to identify a number of other local businesses that have surplus food they struggle to donate, for example because food safety standards cannot be assured by local food banks. For this reason we are planning to expand our provision to a new site, as we continue to build sustainable relationships with food providers and manufacturers.
Our project represented a planned expansion into a new geographical area, an increase in our town centre capacity and sourcing donations from food providers that we didn’t receive surplus food from. We also needed to diversify the type of food that we could handle and redistribute by including chilled foods, fish and meat, and centred on building relationships with local manufacturers and budget supermarkets to become part of their surplus food supply chain.
In July 2019, we were able to pilot a project offering a new food bank service at the Willows Community Church. Approximately 3 miles from our current base, this has been resourced via the main administrative hub at Wellington Street. It has continued to operate for two days a week, providing a five day-a-week foodbank between this new site and our current site. The church is one of our partners in this project and as we have undertaken a feedback exercise with the local community it has only gone to highlight a need for more local provision to tackle food poverty in the area. The church is fully supportive of our plans; they are not in a position to meet the need by themselves and we will use our existing contacts and expertise to develop the new service. We have basic equipment and facilities in place, but with additional funding we now have the resources and additional capacity to bring the pilot scheme to a fully operational state and to invest in new relationships with food donor organisations. This two-day-a-week provision has been operational since that time and we are beginning to train new volunteers from the church to take over this vital service.
Food Donation and Redistribution
Grimsby is a food manufacturing town – a result of our heritage as a centre for the fishing industry. We have had successful talks with a number of food manufacturers that have a national reach/profile and processing/distribution sites close to our project. These comprise Morrisons, who process fish in Grimsby, provide specific food bank supplies via their customer pick a bag scheme and other mixed foods, Tesco providing community involvement as well as surplus mixed foods, Greggs, Hain Daniels, who make a range of healthy foods including Covent Garden Soup, and Avara, who were able to supply us with poultry. Unfortunately, Avara due to unforseen events have now closed, however, Caistor Sea Foods came on board in our supply chain and redistribution. Two local budget supermarkets who did not have a relationship with any food banks before provide regular surplus food donations. The project has also re-established relationships with local faith-based donation collection points.
The main food manufacturers expressed their concerns to us about making donations of branded, chilled goods when they couldn’t be assured about our handling and transportation systems. The purchase of a refrigerated van and an on-site fridge and freezers addressed this concern.
One of the main purchases was a VW refrigerated van using grant funding from Resource Action Fund, under Food Waste Prevention. This has enabled us to collect surplus from these manufacturers and food suppliers, something that we have not had the infrastructure to manage in the past.