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Evening Meeting With Amanda Mckean, Director Canterbury Festival

30th April 2024
Venue: Cricket Ground

Evening meeting with Amanda McKean, Director, Canterbury Festival.
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Lunchtime Meeting Agm & May Business Meeting

7th May 2024
Venue: Cricket Ground
Lunchtime meeting 12.30pm for 1pm meal Annual General Meeting to be followed by the May Business Meeting.
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Lunch talk – Martin Ward, Canterbury Food Bank

The cost of living crisis means that food banks are often in the news – so it was very interesting to hear about Canterbury Food Bank and how it helps people in the local community directly from its Chair of Trustees, Martin Ward.

Martin also happens to be a Past President of our Club, so he was introduced to us with a smile by our current President Tony Loughran as “someone we all know very well!”

Canterbury Food Bank is a registered charity (No. 1153791) and is also a CIO (Charitable Incorporated Organisation) with its HQ in Whitstable – just behind Tesco’s off the Thanet Way. We learnt that the Food Bank was set up in September 2013, which means it will be marking its 10th year this year; during this past decade it has played a hugely important role in the community.

As he started his talk, Martin asked us to forget all of our pre-conceived notions about the people that use food banks. While watching a video about Canterbury Food Bank we were reminded that people may need to use the food bank for a variety of reasons – for instance, someone may simply have lost their job or been recently bereaved and suddenly found themselves struggling. In general, Martin told us, users fall into one of four categories: people in debt, those who have suffered a family crisis, or those in difficulties due to benefits issues or housing issues. Referring to the latter, Martin said that while some Food Bank users may have accommodation, not all of them have the means by which to cook or heat up food. “We therefore need to provide meals to them that don’t need heating,” said Martin.

Canterbury Food Bank has two main activities – providing food parcels and putting people in touch with other organisations that may be able to help them. 

During his talk Martin showed us slides which took us on a pictorial journey through the Food Bank – starting at its HQ in Whitstable, just off the Thanet Way. We learnt that all the food donations that arrive at the warehouse are sorted on arrival – the food needs to be suitable for the food parcels that the Food Bank sends out. (All food needs to be within its sell by date; the Food Bank is not set up to take perishable food. It also doesn’t stock alcohol – such donations are dealt with in other ways.)

The food is sorted by volunteers and placed on the warehouse’s shelves and is then packed in bags for distribution. “Never are all the shelves full,” said Martin, as the food is continuously distributed. 

The main source of food donations comes from supermarkets, schools and churches that have a Food Bank donation set-up. We learnt that during 2022, the equivalent of 100,000 meals were distributed by the Food Bank; demand has increased by 50% since 2021. Inflation has also hit the Food Bank’s costs – a parcel used to cost around £25 a year ago. Now it costs more than £30. This all adds to the pressure on the charity. December 2022 was the busiest month that they have ever had, with 1,460 parcels going out – the equivalent of an astonishing 13,000 meals. 

People come to receive Food Bank support through two main routes – self referrals (e.g., through the Food Bank’s website) and via local agencies (such as Kent Social Services, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and via Family Liaison Officers [“FLOs”] at schools). Around 40% of people come through the latter route. All self-referrals are carefully triaged by “sign posters” who are trained in counselling and have good knowledge of the benefits system.

Martin showed a chart that helped us to visualise the increasing year-by-year demand on the Food Bank; he pointed out that over the year there were peak demand times, such as at Christmas. He also showed us four examples of food lists (templates) used to make up the parcels: e.g., one for a “gluten free adult”, another for a “vegan child”. “We are able to cater to different dietary needs,” said Martin. Each parcel has the equivalent of three meals a day for three days (i.e., nine meals), and Martin reckoned each bag weighs around 12-13 kg. 

As well as public donations the Food Bank must also raise around £35,000 each year in order to run properly; this amount has been going up as costs increase and less comes in from donors (who are also affected by increasing costs). 

The Food Bank used to have two main means of distributing the food parcels – via distribution cafes and by door-to-door delivery. Things have changed because of the pandemic; although the food bank was still allowed to operate during lockdown, its distribution model had to be re-thought as many of its 175 or so volunteers fell into the vulnerable group. While there are still some distribution hubs, the new model sees door-to-door deliveries that now cover the whole district. Interestingly, this means that the Food Bank can support those in pockets of deprivation that they hadn’t managed to help previously. “This was a revelation,” said Martin “though of course if people are in food poverty they are likely to in transport poverty too”. 

The Food Bank only has nine staff (all part time) and relies heavily on its volunteer force, who are estimated to have put in over £20,000 volunteer hours. 

Martin reminded us that the Food Bank doesn’t just provide support in the form of food. Working with the Fuel Bank Foundation they can also provide fuel vouchers to those assessed as needing this help; likewise, working with unconnected.org they are also able to provide SIM cards for phones. 

Martin ended his talk showing us a short video of a “Tin of Hope” as it travelled thorugh the Food Bank,, and reminded us of the charity’s strapline: “Helping Local People in Crisis”. He also told us of a simple way that we can donate via text: 

– to donate £1 – text FOOD1 TO 70201

– to donate £3 – text FOOD1 TO 70331

– to donate £5 – text FOOD1 TO 70970

– to donate £10 – text FOOD1 TO 70191

Finally, we were delighted to present Martin with a donation of £150, raised during our games evening last year. 

You can see a video about the Food Bank, or find out how to get help, volunteer or donate via its website, here

Picture: Chair of Trustees, Martin Ward, talks to us about Canterbury Food Bank. Picture Credit: Rotary Club of Canterbury. 

 

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Canterbury, Kent,
CT1 3NZ,
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