Bury St Edmunds: MP tells of need for food bank in town at launch of initiative

IT may be recognised as one of the more affluent areas in Suffolk ... and probably beyond the county borders.

But the MP for Bury St Edmunds has told people of the need for a Food Bank in the town.

He was speaking at the launch of the initiative at the Moreton Hall Community Centre this morning and told how he had discovered pockets of “hidden poverty”, despite some of his constituents being incredulous at the need for such a scheme.

“People have said to me ‘A food bank in Bury St Edmunds, you’re having a laugh aren’t you?’

“But there are hidden pockets of poevery and even people in work are having to go without. They are trying hard to get food on the table and if it can happen in Bury St Edmunds it can happen anywhere.

“It is surprising for people in Suffolk to know this but it has been identified. There are genuinely people in work who are trying to do the right thing but have their pay taken up by the rising cost of gas and electricity ... they are not eating very well and finding it difficult to even get three meals a day.

“This is real and there are real people going without food and this exercise is fulfilling a need.”

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Mr Ruffley told up to 100 people at today’s launch that he was prompted into supporting the project after meeting community activist and chairman of the Howard Estate Association of Residents (HEART), Ernie Broom, in Bury.

Mr Broom was asked by a woman for help in feeding her and her family.

He realised they were not the only people in Bury unable to afford food and he approached Gatehouse Caring, county and borough councillors Mark Ereira-Guyer and Trevor Beckwith for help.

For 22 years Gatehouse has distributed Christmas hampers to disadvantaged people but in recent times had begun to give out food parcels on a regular basis, so they were already aware of the problem.

A committee was formed to create a Food Bank with members from Gatehouse, Bury St Edmunds Cathedral, Women’s Institute, Churches Together, HEART, CAB, the Quakers and other groups in the town.

Mr Ereira-Guyer and county councillor Craig Dearden-Phillips have provided start up funding from their locality budgets and the Co-operative and Asda have pledged support. More than 40 people have already volunteered to help the scheme.

People in need will be referred by organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, Anglia Care Trust and social services to Gatehouse using a voucher system. Three days of nutritionally-balanced food will then be exchanged for the vouchers at community centres around the area.

Amanda Bloomfield, chief executive of Gatehouse, said: “The idea is not to make people permanently dependent on us for food. It’s for people who have been unexpectedly put into need, put into crisis by bereavement or benefit delay, redundancy or illness. People will also be signposted to other organisations to help find a permanent solution to their problems. This work complements what we are already doing here in Bury and we are pleased to be leading this initiative.”

Mr Ereira-Guyer added: “ This is a great community initiative with groups and individuals coming together to help those who have fallen on hard times.”

The group is working hard to secure further grant funding to finance the project and is hoping other supermarkets, as well as individuals and local groups will support it with donations of non-perishable foods items, such as pasta, tins and cereal.

For more information, contact Gatehouse on 01284 754967 or visiting http://localgiving.com/gatehouse