Colchester: Charity hands out 16 tonnes of food as increasing number of families struggle to put dinner on the table

The Rev Andrew Fordyce, chair of the Colchester Food Bank

The Rev Andrew Fordyce, chair of the Colchester Food Bank - Credit: Andrew Partridge

THE FOUNDER of a food bank last night warned he expected to see a huge spike in the number of people needing handouts.

Chairman of trustees at Colchester Food Bank, the Rev Andrew Fordyce, predicts the continuing recession and looming changes to the benefits system in April will result in hundreds more people in the town struggling to put dinner on the table.

Last year, the charity handed out 16 tonnes of food, feeding around 1,500 adults and 600 children. But, it is predicted in 2013 in excess of 20 tonnes will be needed.

To accommodate the extra provisions required the food bank has been forced to double its warehouse capacity.

Next week, it is due to move operations from its current 575 sq ft Big Yellow Storage facility in Turner Road to a new unit on Moorside Business Park, offering 1000 sq ft of space.

“The underlying trend is that people are finding it tougher out there,” said Mr Fordyce, the vicar at St Margaret’s Berechurch on Stansted Road, who established the food bank in 2010 with a number of other church leaders in Colchester.

“And we are in a time of transition as far as the benefits system is concerned. In times of transition things generally get sticky and I’m sure things will be harder after April.

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“There’s a misconception we are a homeless charity. This is absolutely not the case. Food poverty is affecting people across the board.

“We see self-employed people who have hit the buffers because they haven’t had any income for months, as well as people who have been made unemployed and there’s a delay in their benefits coming through.

“Even working people who have debts are struggling. We’ve seen instances of adults starving themselves so they can feed their children.

“I would argue there are people out there who have a smart house and a smart car on the drive but they can’t afford to put petrol in it.”

The food bank, part of the Trussell Trust national network, operates on food and money donations from churches school, businesses and individuals, which are sorted and distributed by volunteers. To qualify for a standard box of 15 basic food items, people have to have been given a voucher by a designated person, such as a doctor, care worker or Citizen’s Advice Bureau worker, who has identified a need.

“When you hand over the food to someone you can see the weight come off their shoulders. They know they have a few days respite from worrying about feeding themselves and their family, said Mr Fordyce, who added that the charity keeps “robust” records to ensure food isn’t “handed out like candy”.

But despite the unfortunate popularity of the charity’s work – it calculates it has doubled the amount of the food it has handed out in each of the three years it has been operating – he has also seen the best side of the community who have got behind the project.

Mr Fordyce said: “I’d rather we didn’t exist as a charity but there is a need and the way the community have supported us has been humbling.

“All the major supermarkets contribute and we have over 50 volunteers giving up their time for nothing. It has been a privilege to see people from all over the community, schools and churches, step up.

He added: “Everyone remarked how wonderful it was to see people volunteering at the Olympics last year. It didn’t surprise me at all. I’ve seen that spirit every day for the last three years.”

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