As you might imagine December was a very busy month at Corsham Churches Food Bank, in fact the busiest we’ve ever had, helping over 100 families and individuals. There are many reasons for this but top of the list is the distribution of extra food to families nominated by local schools, churches, Citizens Advice and the Rise Trust, the group that took over the work of Children’s Centres. All of these organisations know the particular circumstances of those whom they nominate and at the moment the need for extra help can be for a wide range of reasons. Universal Credit (UC) tends to be at the top of the list, partly because of the waiting period of 5 weeks after an application has been submitted to receive benefit. It can also be withheld if the person receiving it fails to attend a scheduled meeting for whatever reason. At the food bank we make no judgement about the circumstances, we simply give help. Even if people receiving UC can normally manage on what they receive, Christmas brings extra pressures and local organisations and schools recognise this which is reflected in the nominations for help we receive. A big majority of requests for help comes from single parent families.

During the first and second periods of lockdown in the last 9 months, we have seen the effects of furlough and loss of jobs in a good proportion of the clients who approach us. If families are in the “just managing” category, being put on furlough and losing 20% of income can make a big difference and we have clients who tell us that they have not eaten for a couple of days to make sure that their children are fed. We have also given help to people living rough in the area, which seems unimaginable in our relatively prosperous surroundings, but it is happening.

We’re lucky to have a good pool of volunteers, currently 32, who help out on a rota basis so that at our open sessions we can stick to the “rule of six” with appropriate social distancing, masks, hand sanitisers and gloves.

We have a close relationship with the Money Advice Centre, run from the Baptist Church in Corsham, we give clients their contact details and they in turn will send people to us who need immediate help while they struggle to get out of debt.

So, we’re helping people with a wide range of difficulties and one of the changes we’ve seen over the last 2-3 years is that a service set up to give immediate emergency help in 2011 is now almost 10 years later giving longer term assistance, in particular to struggling families. And that’s why we’re so grateful for the help local people give us in their donations of food and financially. Many thanks for all your help.

Steve Drew – Chairman CCFB