Meet the Scarborough volunteers tackling food poverty
Christmas is a time synonymous with the phrase “Eat, drink and be merry” – but not for those in food poverty.
Many of us will be looking forward to those little touches which make the season of goodwill extra special for all of us - festive foods such as pigs-in-blankets, brandy butter and sherry trifle are at the front of everybody’s minds.
It is easy to forget when we welcome our loved ones on Christmas morning, and laugh and joke and smile as we open our presents, that not everyone is as fortunate as ourselves.
There are those who without the help of others will have few or no presents this year, and there are those, who without assistance from our food banks, may even struggle to find the funds to eat.
Many people find themselves in financial difficulty for the first time in their lives.
Reduced income from having spent many months on furlough and the impact from businesses folding continues to take effect.
Perhaps they have long Covid and are unable to work, perhaps they have delayed treatment for another illness caused by the pressure of the pandemic on the NHS.
There are as many reasons as there are people who need help.
This year food banks are reporting unprecedented demand as the after-effects of the virus continue to impact a massive number of people.
In this month’s Team North Yorkshire, community reporter Louise Perrin talks to some of the people who aim to make a difference by volunteering with organisations tackling food insecurity.
Malachi Storehouse is one of the foodbanks working hard to keep the people of Whitby from going hungry.
The storehouse is run by Hope Whitby, a missional community which operates under the watchful guidance of minister Bec Coates.
The storehouse was set up four years ago when a food donation partnership was arranged with Sainsbury's.
The partnership includes a front of store donation box that the generous people of Whitby regularly fill. This enables Hope Whitby to feed children and families and provide food hampers for those in need.
Tackling period poverty
The storehouse also operates the ‘Wings’ service which aims to tackle period poverty.
Bec said: “It was busy before Covid, but since Covid we’ve been inundated. An awful lot of hampers have gone out this year.
“The generous people of Whitby top up the food bin at Sainsbury's and we’ve had funding from councillor Joe Plant.”
Malachi Storehouse is always grateful for any donations, whether they be loo rolls or toiletries.
In particular, donations of sanitary products are always required. Bec said: “Anything like that is useful, we found that some girls were using socks, it’s been quite an eye-opener.”
"It’s great to feel that you are doing something”
Jane Le Blond is part of the Hope Whitby community and took over the running of Malachi Storehouse two year ago.
Jane’s role is to empty the donation bins, make up food hampers and then deliver to those in need.
Quite a lot of the people who need help are referred by social services, Beyond Housing or the Living Well teams. Jane said: “ We see a lot of different faces, people who need help.”
Each hamper contains pasta, rice, cereal, tea, coffee, UHT milk, baked beans, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, peas, soup, meat such as stewing steak or chilli con-carne, biscuits.
Jane said: “We try to give a good mix of things, if it’s for a family, we try to include squash. But there’s not enough food to feed a family for a week.
“It has its challenges, but it’s great to feel that you are doing something to help people who are struggling.”
Therese Tinnion moved to the area three years ago.
She said: “We saw a real need in Whitby and the surrounding area through covid, there was a huge number of people needing food and basic provisions.”
As well as helping Jane with the foodbank side of Malachi Storehouse, Therese also operates the community's “Wings” initiative to tackle period poverty.
Jane creates hygiene hampers and sanitary product hampers.
She said: “Bec picked up that there was a need for sanitary products. Some people can’t afford sanitary towels and tampons, so we provide a discreet service called ‘Wings’.
“We made 100 period poverty bags and delivered them to years 9 and up at Eskdale School with a little card with our email and telephone number on.”
How you can help
Therese said there are a number of ways people can help the storehouse. She said: “We rely heavily on donations. The donation bin in Sainsbury’s always has a list of what we need.
“There is such a stigma attached to period poverty. It impacts people emotionally and mentally.
“They don’t feel clean and if they can’t afford the products they feel humiliated and embarrassed.
“To tackle it we need donations of sanitary towels with wings (not panty liners) and sanitary wipes.
“We need the donations, but we could also do with more volunteers, so if you would like to get involved, please get in touch.”
If you are fighting food poverty or would like to volunteer, contact Jane Le Blond by emailing [email protected]
If you are in need of sanitary products, Therese, may be contacted by emailing [email protected]