Hunger at home is real and increasing for many families - and not just those who normally receive free school meals.
Benefit changes, the pandemic, changing work patterns... many people have seen their incomes reduce, while both the cost of living and unemployment remain high; there are major cuts to family support, youth work and holiday provision.
This all creates a very real problem for families struggling to meet the costs of feeding and entertaining their children during the holidays.
The Department for Education reported, in December 2020, that
over two in five parents are cutting the food budget; additionally, a fifth have skipped a meal to make sure their children eat, with nearly one in ten going as far as missing a meal for their children entirely.
This directly impacts health and contributes to holiday learning loss. In addition, previous research has shown a substantial link between low income and isolation. No child should spend their holidays hungry and stuck indoors.
While people go hungry, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of perfectly-edible food is sent to landfill - it's simply bruised, or surplus, or past some arbitrary "best before" date.
So, we work with local retailers, wholesalers and farmers to collect and use this food. Some, we prepare, cook, and serve - free food for anyone who wants it; the rest, we make available through our Community Pantry.
Every weekday, we take a look at the food we've received, and work out how best to use it.
Volunteers then turn it into fresh, hot food which is available to anyone who wants to drop in. We don't judge, we ask no questions, we don't make assumptions. If you're lonely, hungry, or just in the area, please - pop in and grab something.
Of course, we can't turn everything into hot meals, and much gets boxed up and put onto the shelves of our Community Pantry. Unlike a regular food bank, you don't need a referral: just come along. All we ask is that you take what you need, not what you can carry.
Vegetables or pastries, fruit or eggs, packet sauces or cans - it's all free to a good home. We also supplement this with non-food products from time to time, as we know that simple things like toothpaste or sanitary products can make a huge difference when you're struggling. Similarly, we've started offering pet food as a key part of helping people's mental health and wellbeing.
To give a sense of scale... in 2022 alone, we collected and distributed over 22 tonnes of surplus food through the Pantry; we cooked and served over 20,000 free meals; had over 180 regular individual users of the Pantry; and we gave out more than 400 food parcels and festive hampers.
Take what you need, donate if you can - no judgement, and no questions.
For more information, please see our dedicated Facebook page.