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Dorchester food bank reaches out to those on hard times
SOMETIMES, it can be hard to admit when you are struggling.
It might be that you don’t want to trouble anyone, or maybe it’s simply a question of pride.
But as the nights draw in and the temperatures drop, a Dorchester charity doesn’t want people to feel it’s a choice between food and heating.
The Dorchester food bank is reaching out to people in the local community who may be going through times of crisis.
Volunteers say they are concerned that elderly people in particular may be too proud to come forward.
Committee member Rosemary Hardwicke said: “Older people might not like asking but it concerns me that they might be out there and in need.
“I am convinced there must be people out there who are too proud or too shy to come for help.
“Particularly for elderly people in the winter, it’s food or heating.”
Food banks, wherever they are set up, says the committee, have revealed a ‘hidden need.’ It’s little wonder, then, that the Dorchester food bank is on course to hand out 1,000 bags of groceries this year.
Committee members say the number of bags given out is ‘slowly increasing’ month after month.
As reported in the Echo earlier this year, food crisis charity The Trussell Trust revealed that the number of people turning to food banks for help had almost tripled in a year.
More than 250,000 people reached out for help in 2012 – three times more than in 2011 and 10,000 more than anticipated by the charity.
And it estimates that the number is set to rise as more families struggle to cope under the government’s welfare reforms.
But in Dorchester are numbers increasing because more people are in need, or because more people are hearing about the food bank?
Committee members think it may be a bit of both.
What they are sure of is that many more people could be out there suffering without reaching for help.
Rosemary said: “I hate to think that it could be the case.
“I would hate to think somebody couldn’t eat and we are sitting here on all these donations ready to go.
“Maybe they are too proud or too shy and come the winter there might be a big bill or something and then it’s heating or eating.”
She added: “It’s not like the bags have ‘food bank’ written on them, no one would know.”
So what to do if you think you know someone who could be in need?
“If you know anyone who might need the food bank, tactfully point them in the right direction of an agency which can refer them to us.
“I am convinced there are people out there who need a food bank,” says Rosemary.
Initiative’s crucial role to families in hardship
The food bank was set up in 2009 by Dorchester Baptist Church.
The idea came when volunteers visited a church in Bournemouth where a similar project was already underway.
The Dorchester food bank was set up close to Christmas so that it could help struggling families during the festive period. Since then it has gone from strength to strength.
Members of several local churches are responsible for running and organising the food bank.
Recently they have been busy collecting Harvest donations from local schools and businesses, such as Budgens.
Since Dorchester food bank opened its doors, similar operations in Weymouth and Portland have been set up.
Each bag of supplies has a value of around £10 and is designed to tide over those in need for about three days.
“It’s not designed as a permanent solution,” says Rosemary, “We’re here for when people need us.
“For example, we have people who might have had problems with their benefits being paid and they don’t have any money for food.
“We generally don’t expect people to need to come for more than three lots of food.”
People who need the food bank must be referred by an agency – such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, their doctor, Dorset County Hospital and local churches – who will give them a red card.
This can be cashed in for a bag of supplies at the food bank, which is housed at the Dorford Centre.
The food bank also refers recipients to appropriate statutory bodies.
And what if you want to donate to the food bank?
All throughout the year, donators are invited to bring in items and place them in the special food bank bin.
“Anybody can come in at any time with donations for the bin,” says committee member Chris Nowell.
These, along with other donations from schools, businesses and other groups, are then sorted in to bags according to their expiry dates.
Unfortunately fresh food donations can not be accepted.
“It has to be there for when people need it,” says Chris, “so we need to make sure that what’s provided is going to last.”
The food bank is open from noon until 2pm on Mondays and 10.30pm until 12.30pm on Wednesdays and Fridays.
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