From Sofa Surfing to Full-Time Employment
In his early 20’s Matt* had been coming to the Food Bank for 6 months. His Mum had passed away when he was younger and his relationship had broken down with his sister. Matt was suffering with mental health issues including depression and was homeless, sleeping on friend’s sofas. This eventually reached the point where he ended up sleeping in a park or just driving around.
Those on the Food Bank team became like Matt’s family – they would provide food and Matt would help out by doing jobs around the Food Bank in return. Over time trust was built, which enabled the team to support Matt with thinking about finding a permanent home of his own and moving forward with his life.
A house share was found and the team supported Matt with moving in to his new home, furniture was provided by Home Equip as well as white goods, cleaning products and support with setting up the utilities.
Matt stayed in touch with the team, sharing how things were going, while the team supported him with budgeting to ensure he was financially stable. When he was ready the team helped him look for paid work.
Matt’s passion is working on bikes – one day Matt visited a bicycle shop where he stripped down his own bike and put it back together. He was then offered a part-time job! The team supported Matt by providing trousers and shoes and ensured he was able to get to the interview. Matt was successful and started working part-time fixing customers bikes! Not only that, he also received ‘employee of the week’ twice and a bonus in his pay! He has now been working for 6 months and the job has evolved to a full-time contract. Matt continues to be awarded ‘employee of the week’ on a regular basis and has also been given the responsibility of opening and closing the shop.
The team have witnessed an immense improvement in Matt’s mental health and wellbeing. He is also rebuilding his relationship with his sister as well as building friendships with his colleagues. Matt continues to visit the Food Bank on his days off and refers to the team as his family. Matt is now looking for his own home – it’s such an honour to be a part of Matt’s journey. *Name has been changed to protect identity
Fresh Fruit & Vegetables
Over 10,000 people have benefitted from the fresh fruit and vegetables we have distributed throughout the year. Meaning that those who come to the Food Bank are able to cook fresh, healthy, nutritious meals that do not break the budget.
Meals in a Bag
Our Meal in a Bag scheme involves a recipe and the weighed, fresh ingredients to make a main meal and pudding along with a message of encouragement and tips from the Cooking on a Budget workshops. Families may find themselves making tasty classics like Cottage Pie and Peach and Strawberry Sponge!
Our Amazing Family
We would not be where we are today without the incredible support of our 38 strong team of volunteers. Early on in the pandemic we decided to form a bubble of 16 to enable us to work closely alongside one another while also supporting each other.
The team have stood in the rain alongside those queuing for the Food Bank; they have walked alongside those who are escaping domestic violence, rough sleepers and just giving their time to chat and listen to those visitors who are lonely and isolated.
More Than Just Food: CMA Team
We provide far more than just food parcels. One of the services we provide is debt advice and support with budgeting skills. The CMA (Community Money Advice) team is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. All those who come to the Food Bank are offered support by the CMA team, to ensure everyone has access to support with budgeting, debt and money management.
Greg* had come to the Food Bank in debt - all his income was taken up to pay his debts and he was coming to the Food Bank to feed himself. On being referred to the CMA Team, his money was budgeted to enable him to pay his bills, rent, food and repayments on his debts.
His self-esteem and confidence returned and he started looking for employment. The Food Bank has a bike which is lent out to clients to use to commute to work therefore saving on transport costs. We also gave Greg shoes and trousers for job interviews and helped with his CV and appointments.
Greg is now in full-time employment, is managing his outgoings and repaying his debts. Prevention is key and he has been given the help he needs to manage his finances and avoid getting into debt again in the future. *Name changed to protect identity
More Than Just Food: Homeless Support
We aim to support our visitors on their journey out of ‘homelessness’ by providing: food, hot meals, clothes, sleeping bags and toiletries. In addition we provide support with filling in forms, appointments and housing assist – this enables us, most importantly, to build a relationship and therefore build trust.
We also fund ‘A Night In’ which pays for a night in a local bed & breakfast, to rest, get warm, shower and relax. Of those we help into housing, the majority go on to employment. Each person is treated as an individual and each journey is individual to them.
It is a wonderful thing to witness a person take that journey from brokenness and homelessness to a confident, self-sufficient, hope-filled individual. Each person is treated as an individual and each journey is unique to them.
More Than Just Food: Home Equip Furniture Bank
Through funding and community donations we are able to supply anything from cups to cookers, beds to baby items, to a whole home of furniture. The Home Equip project brings hope and self-worth, it turns an empty property in to a home and safe space for many of our families. This has become a valuable resource for our community.
This project works on a similar basis to the Food Bank while supporting families and individuals going into void/empty homes. An individual or family is referred to us due to homelessness, domestic violence, social services intervention, fire or another emergency. Referrals come from the local housing department at the council, social services, the family and children’s centre, schools and churches.
For those families whose children need beds, their cooker has broken or escaping domestic violence the Home Equip project is a lifeline for those items they cannot afford. By helping those, who have experienced domestic violence and escaped volatile relationships, build their home it prevents them from feeling the need to return. This project runs thanks to the generosity of our funders and the donations from the community.
More Than Just Food: School Holiday Hunger Top Up Vouchers
The Holiday Hunger scheme was born out of listening to local families feedback about how they manage during the school holidays. One Mum told us: 'I manage all year round, I buy bread, ham, cheese, milk and cereal in the week, the children have breakfast and a hot meal at school every day, I feed them a sandwich for tea and they snack or fill themselves up with a bowl of cereal. Holidays are tough'.
For the past six years we have provided schools with Holiday Hunger vouchers for all those in receipt of free school meals and families struggling with low income. For some families finding a hot meal per child per day throughout the six week summer holiday is financially impossible.
Covid lockdown has seen many families' finances and income take a fall. Whether they have lost their jobs, been furloughed or just unable to cope, we were there. Our Easter Holiday Hunger scheme started at Easter 2020 as normal, we soon realised the numbers of visitors had increased by over 50%, at this point we decided to continue with the ‘Holiday Hunger Food Parcels’.
The Holiday Hunger scheme ran from Easter 2020 right through until October 2020 benefitting over 4,400 people, it then began all over again at Christmas 2020. This was one of the busiest times we had ever experienced during the lockdown.
We asked schools to refer those families who would benefit from a fresh turkey dinner, toy vouchers, fuel vouchers (it takes 4 hours of electric to cook a turkey). We were able to bless those families and others with Christmas goodie hampers.
We will continue this scheme long after lockdown is over, as we have always done. We have been told by our visitors: ‘Its more than just the food, I was going mad with no-one to talk to’, ‘my family are so grateful to you and our school, thank you’. Families will continue to bring the vouchers along to the Food Bank and receive ‘Top Up’ food, fresh fruit and vegetables and extras for the holidays. This is a lifeline for many and if it frees up a few pennies to take the children to the beach and buy them an ice cream, amazing!
High Sheriff of Dorset Award
One of the main highlights from 2020 was that Tracy Blick and The Christchurch Food Bank+ team received the High Sheriff Dorset Award for their commitment and work with the community!
George Streatfeild, The High Sheriff of Dorset said: "We made an inspirational visit to Christchurch Food Bank+ to present awards to the team running the charity and its Project Manager, Tracy Blick who has taken it to another level. As well as supplying three days’ worth of food to families and other essentials such as nappies, cleaning items and fresh fruit and veg, Tracy has set up a Furniture bank which can be used by families fleeing domestic abuse or being moved to temporary accommodation, debt and budget coaching, a homeless drop in, healthy meal recipe bags to encourage cooking at home and over the summer school holidays over 1,000 children received Holiday Hunger bags!”
2020 was a strange, difficult and yet remarkable year at Christchurch Food Bank+. Despite lockdown and lots of places being closed or having restrictions, we were able to remain open throughout and continue to serve our community. The generosity both financially and in donations was overwhelming and humbling. There were days where our needs were met over and over again - churches were praying and assisting, members of our community were stepping up or increasing their giving and local companies were falling over each other to help.
Every one of our visitors left with food, toiletries, toilet rolls, fresh fruit and vegetables and HOPE for themselves and their families. It was an honour and a privilege to partner with local authorities and groups, to be a part of helping our communities and schools through the pandemic.
We have so many HOPE filled, real life stories of how we got through this together to share. We can never give enough thanks to our volunteers and supporters and to God for the inward strength and support that carried us forward Thank you from the heart x
Tracy Blick, Manager, Sarah Veal Deputy Manager and Team