Q&A with the Letchworth Food Bank

Sadly everyday people in the UK go hungry for reasons ranging from redundancy to receiving an unexpected bill on a low income. Foodbanks have become a vital support to many, not least here in Letchworth, where the towns foodbank supported by The Trussell Trust has been in operation since 2012. We spoke with warehouse manager Sue Attwood, to find out more about the operation…

Where are you based?
Our main warehouse is in Letchworth and a distribution centre is run from the Mrs Howard Memorial Hall on Norton Way South. The distribution centre is where users must come to collect food parcels. We’re open every Tuesday and Friday from 10am until 12noon. Up at the warehouse we have a great team of volunteers who sort food to check that it’s in date and pack it into boxes ready to be given out. It’s quite an operation and the team there work incredibly hard. 

How can people get help? Is it a drop-in facility?
No. In order to get a food parcel people do need to be referred with a voucher. This can be issued by a number of different places, like the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, the Job Centre, even some schools. Anyone in need is always welcome to call in when we’re open to speak to our volunteers over a cup of tea and they will help with the next steps.

What’s in a typical food parcel?
It’s a minimum of three days nutritionally balanced, non-perishable foods. So things like breakfast cereal, soup, pasta, baked beans, tinned meat and biscuits. We adapt based on the number of adults and children within a household and we can usually adapt a parcel to suit dietary needs.

Is it just food you provide?
We can occasionally supply toileties, nappies and baby food to those who need them.

How many meals a year to you provide?  Has this increased? 
Yes, there's been a consistent increase in the number of clients and we're presently seeing - and unfortunately foreseeing with more demand due to benefit cuts and general economic downturn.  Between 1 October and 31 December 2016 we supplied food parcels to 982 clients across Letchworth, Hitchin and Baldock.

What are your busiest times?
The summer months are often the busiest, what with schools closing for a summer holiday, meaning those children who would have received a free hot meal at lunchtime now going without. Mid-winter can also be busy and we make a special effort with parcels at Christmas, especially for children.

Where can people donate? 
We’re incredibly lucky with many local faith groups supporting us by collecting food and many local schools also collect for us, especially as part of Harvest Festival celebrations. Morrisons within in the town centre has a collection point as does Sainsburys along Eastcheap.

What items are you in need of? 
Toiletries, especially items for men are always needed. Also, carrier bags for us to make up food parcels – the 5p charge has seen a reduction in these being donated! What we’re really in need with is more funding to help us cover essential costs such as the rent on our warehouse. We’d welcome contributions preferably through monthly direct debit donations as this helps manage our accounts. 

How do people find out more information?
Visit our website www.letchworth.foodbank.org.uk or ask at your school, job centre or citizens advice bureau.  

If anyone Is able to help with funding or would like more information please contact the Foodbank Treasurer, c/o St Paul’s Church, 179 Pixmore Way, Letchworth SG6 1QT or email info@letchworth.foodbank.org.uk

Heritage Foundations grants have been used to support a local food bank in Letchworth