Columns for Exmouth Journal

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COLUMN for Exmouth Journal ...... to print 30th Dec 2020

The end of a difficult year!

Job losses from the closure of major stores are adding to the list of people out of work. However, while big stores are closing, their customers will be looking for new suppliers and manufacturers seeking alternative outlets - new doors will open where old doors close. More worrying is the travel industry; airlines have let many staff go, though West Country tourism may benefit from more customers in due course.

The Exmouth Community Larder has seen a huge increase in need from people in a "food emergency". The graph has been re-arranged to show the start of the pandemic in April 2020 as the beginning. April 2021 will probably show an even greater need as the financial hardships of the job losses and aftermath of the Covid Crisis continue to bite and savings run out.

The graph shows the previous levels of support The Community Larder gave to people in difficulties, last year in red showed an increase over the previous average in blue, but nothing compared with the surge at the start of the crisis. The numbers this April and May are enhanced by people "isolating" and needing help before commercial deliveries expanded to their needs - not normal Larder users! Many recipients of government hand-outs at that time donated them to The Larder. However, June onwards shows this settling down, with a near doubling from previous years. and this rise is likely to continue.

The vaccine will not protect against job loss, and it will be several months before vaccination helps us to get out of semi-lockdown anyway. Brexit will add another complication to "Trade" and jobs - those worrying about delays at Dover forget that French fishermen will blockade Calais if they don't get what they want!! So basic needs will soar again, hopefully not compounded by another virus surge after the holidays

Change happens all the time, but rarely so unexpectedly or dramatically. Media High Street news reports of businesses in difficulties are 50% from activities that did not exist ten years ago! Hospitality is upset at having to close - but my local was the Beacon Vaults in Exmouth, shut some years ago and still not re-opened! The crisis when Woolworths closed is now forgotten!! Successes are from people adapting in the face of adversity, selling online instead of in a shop, take-away meals instead of sitting down! The pasty was not designed to be eaten on a plate with a knife and fork!!

The great positive is that The Larder has an amazing team organising food deliveries, with even more brilliant support from the whole Community providing reserves of basics. So no-one in our locality should be without food - pass the news if there are people struggling who do not know how to contact The Larder / Foodbank.

2020 has been a strange and tough year, but there have been positive events which we may have missed in the overwhelming gloom created by Covid19. In January we can all look forward to working out of the darkness and into the light!!

Christmas promised Glad Tidings of Great Joy ..... but, like Santa's little helpers, it is up to us, the ordinary people, to make it work positively for everyone, sharing as needed. There are actually many positive things for all of us, Santa's little helpers, to work on!!

Happy New Year - celebrate safely!!

COLUMN for Exmouth Journal ...... to print 16th Dec 2020

Happy Christmas, or is it Yuletide??

Love - caring and being cared for - is the one gift easily available to share this Christmas. Gatherings are eagerly anticipated for those that can; telephone and email are there for those that can't, or who choose not to travel. A long phone call with a relative may actually make better contact than trying to be heard in a noisy exuberant party!!

Christmas is when we celebrate the Creator coming to share our humanity, being greeted by shepherds in the fields, the lowest of people. I like the story of the boy who wanted to be a shepherd in a Nativity play being turned down because he was not scruffy or smelly enough!! Jesus came to everyone, from the lowest to the mysterious Three Kings. As in my last column, "One Creator, one Planet, one Family".

Yuletide is the old midwinter festival, later purloined by Christians to celebrate Christmas. The Yule festival was a period of jollity and feasting to celebrate the turn of the year, with everything still frozen and bleak, but with days starting to lengthen bringing the warmth of spring and visions of new shoots to come - a light at the end of the tunnel.

Now we are in the depths of this pandemic. There are ups and downs like changes in the weather, but the climate is a frozen and bleak landscape with no leaves on the trees. But we now have vaccines and warmer weather ahead which will ease pressures on the Health Service. So I believe that this is a good year to celebrate Yuletide, for Christians too, especially as sights are now set to get on top of the situation before the other great Christian Festival of Easter.

Love is a weak emotion when contrasted with hatred, selfishness, prejudice and discrimination. Similarly, gravity is the weakest field in science, compared with electricity, magnetism and nuclear forces. But in the ultimate, the gravitation of huge stars or "black holes" overwhelms everything. So, too, if we can develop care and compassion for each other, all of each other in the whole world, there's nothing that can't be done.

Now, in the depths of this pandemic here in Exmouth, green shoots and branches of caring and compassion are reaching out - as evidenced by the support for so many groups and activities including the Community Larder - and not least programmes to alleviate lonliness by phoning around. Every wrong number called is a potential new friend, like bumping into someone in the street!!

We all look forward to a return soon to some social normality with the vaccine. Meanwhile, those of us in our 80's (me included) have to keep clear of the virus until we get the vaccine. So 6ft spacing, face masks and minimal excursions remain the current normal.

Meanwhile we see the pressure for people to get together over Christmas with "friends and loved ones". What about "family"?? My own large family background reminds me that not all gatherings are as happy and wonderful as they should be!!! Like card players, we need to do the best we can with whatever hand we are dealt!!

So, HAPPY FESTIVAL, be it Christmas or Yuletide, whether alone, in company or a crowded family. The New Year will surely bring New and better Tidings of Great Joy, just as the angel trumpeted at the first Christmas for all of us!!

COLUMN for Exmouth Journal ...... to print 2nd Dec 2020

Service as usual .... !!

Foodbank demand is increasing, now 20% more than the previous peak. Homeless numbers are also rising, most with complex needs. Infections from the Covid virus are also increasing - East Devon may be below the national average, but ten times what it was a few weeks ago is really bad!!

Meanwhile, 54 volunteers at the foodbank - plus a huge raft of donors and others - keep The Larder supplied and provisions delivered. EDDC housing department and support staff are working hard. Helping people is not politics; the help people need comes from small individual tasks carried out with care and compassion. The same is true for our phones, water supplies, electricity, gas, TV reception and our many delivery drivers!!

It will get worse before it gets better; infections may reduce, but the loss of income will push more people into food crisis. On the positive side we now have a dozen extra volunteers available when needed, plus reserves of supplies and cash, thanks to the generosity of everyone.

The BBC showed a group in America feeding 120 families a week with the catch phrase "One Creator, One Planet, One Family" which I like! No need to accuse me of being unduly Christian - the group featured is Moslem; Native Americans understood the same concept long before the Pilgrim Fathers!! We are all in this together!

The pandemic is making us all realise how we rely on each other, "one planet, one family". Politicians, including Boris Johnson, are reminded that we are all subject to the same human needs and frailties - we can any of us catch this thing or be "pinged" to isolate. Politicians and managers are important to guide resources overall, but actual help comes from local helpers and neghbours doing lots of little stuff when and where it is needed!

Christmas will be on 25th December as usual - we all look forward to big gatherings; but the virus is looking forward to it too, especially mixing young and old. If this is "a war", we should realise the virus is an enemy that will expand into whatever space we give it!!

Distancing is key; I saw a single instance of two people having a chat about 2m apart. All other conversations seen from my window are about 2 feet apart - maybe it is all an EU problem, confusing us with a metric 2m instead of 6 feet. if you know whether the other person ate garlic or had a beer with their last meal, you are breathing their aerosol particles, virii and bacteria included, though hopefully not Covid19!!

The Community Larder will continue as usual over Christmas and New Year, though closing on Christmas Day and Year's Day. Usual deliveries will go out on Wednesday 23rd, Monday 28th, Wednesday 30th December and Monday 5th January. Pick up for those without a delivery address will be on the two Mondays, but NOT Christmas Day or New Years day.

COLUMN for Exmouth Journal ...... to print 18th Nov 2020

Community spirit is positive news

Volunteer offers of help flooded in at the beginning of this crisis. The 7 year experience of the Exmouth Community Larder gave a foundation on which to build, but the support of the community quickly established an expanded solution which has kept up without a break, despite demand being three times more than previous years; November has started another 20% higher yet.

Donations of supplies and cash came in from the whole locality, so that from the start of the crisis The Exmouth Community Larder has been able to deliver food to all our neighbours in need. A major donation has been the time, freely given, by so many people within and outside The Larder - no-one gets any remuneration from The Larder.

Space to work was made available at the Salvation Army hall facilitating this threefold expansion, with room for volunteers to socially distance.

Support for people in need has come from departments in EDDC, from Citizens Advice, from Health visitors, GP's and the Mental Health team and many others, often working with re-arranged patterns using phone and internet. The Larder also accepts requests and referrals from anyone who experiences or can see a need.

Needs and difficulties are as diverse as people themselves!! For many it is now the loss of a steady income and a stable environment because so much has been changed by the virus and plans to combat it. In addition to food supplies, we all need to provide caring and compassionate support for people claiming necessary benefits, trying to stay connected to friends and family and staying positive.

The Larder is therefore reaching out to those that need food help to find out what extra support should be provided. There are many who are not comfortable using the internet, or maybe do not have a reliable phone connection - many of whom were managing quite well until the virus upended their world!! We will try to connect them with helpful support.

The EDDC housing team has worked wonders in getting a roof for otherwise homeless people - to whom The Larder then provides supplies,

Sometimes we miss the vital contribution of people in regular jobs, who are nevertheless part of the Community Spirit, if not at the centre of the community.

Mental Health is in the news - we are all struggling to some extent, but some much more than others. The St John's Court team works as best it can, but it is visible that people are not finding it easy to make the connection whether from practical problems or a reluctance to seek help. Be nice to your neighbours; you don't know what stress they are under!!

Embarrassment should never be a factor - if someone needs help, ask for it!! The time to be embarrassed is when returned to some sort of normality and failing to give back help and support into the collective community - which is very simply "all of us together"!!

East Devon, a SPIRITED COMMUNITY!!

COLUMN for Exmouth Journal, to print 4th Nov 2020

Feeding children is not just for half term!!

100 people a week now rely on The Larder. Many families need help in these difficult times, children need to be fed, whether in school, on a break, even at Christmas!!!

£50,000 value of supplies have been given out since this crisis started - probably over £60,000 as donations are often not the cheapest! All volunteer time and effort is provided free, so what goes out is what came in!!

Donations continue to arrive apace from the whole community. There are 55 sources listed; a more careful count would be more than 100. THANK YOU!

As usual there is a surge from church and school Harvest Festivals. Even before churches closed, some parishioners found it easier to drop donations into a nearby collection point, so we cannot give exact numbers.

Primary schools at Withycombe, Lympstone, Woodbury, Brixington, St Peter's Budleigh and many more have delivered, some in a busy period without being counted!! THANK YOU to all the schools - but largely the parents from whom the donations actually come!!!

The Larder must also thank a litany of churches, nineteen at the last count, from Exmouth, Exton, Lympstone, both Budleighs, Woodbury and even Cranbrook - though Cranbrook is really served from Ottery St Mary foodbank.

Many businesses have collection points including Tesco, Riverside Stores, the Co-op; other groups including GP practices that have just plain donated either from the business, the staff or both!!

Cash and donations by bank transfer are also important; they enable gaps on the shelves to be filled with bulk purchases. The Larder also benefits from some major retailers supporting us; some oversupply from the Exeter foodbank even came our way!!

Watching a dog walker recently ... a dachshund was doing his very best with what very little he had, and hoping that there would not be deep snow..... Which sums up our human situation too!!

If you want to complain, call the Government - if you need food, call The Community Larder, well supported by the whole community including the District Council.

East Devon "AN OUTSTANDING PLACE" as the motto says .....
so THANK YOU for showing it in such a practical way.

COLUMN to print 21st Oct 2020

Positive news!

Happy news is requested by the new editor to balance all the gloom assailing us daily, if not hourly.... so let's think of what is good.....

Food is in plentiful supply - we mostly have enough in the cupboard and the shops are now stocked. The Community Larder (Foodbank) is also well stocked through the generosity of the whole community to help anyone in a food crisis.

Community spirit and mutual helping is positive news - of course there are moaners. The Foodbank no doubt has a few trying to get something for nothing, which gives some people an excuse not to join the majority donating or offering help! Hey-Ho!!

Water, gas and electric continue to arrive as usual - we remember all the engineers, postmen and postwomen, bin collectors, maintenance staff, EDDC and town council support staff, rental agency offices and very many others who maintain the fragile fabric of our world so that it seems more solid than maybe it is!!

Healthcare is available to us all - in the USA it is only available to those who can afford it, despite their national wealth. The NHS is truly amazing in all that it does achieve for any and for all of us; under pressure it is that much more amazing!!

Phones and internet are working well; we may make better contacts with long phone calls than we had with a few snatched words during brief chats in noisy coffee shops and pubs before all this happened!

Of course there are problems; I have heard one politician described as Captain Hindsight, with regret that we do not have Captain Foresight. We face unforeseeable problems with this virus; nobody really knows.

Our TV news is skewed to give hours of British pandemic problems. Meanwhile, thousands of people in western USA have lost their homes due to raging fires; Belarus is in permanent uproar; several places are on the brink of open warfare, but with only a few people killed so far.

But a huge proportion of people around the world are still living in awful squalor without enough food, clean water, sanitary conditions or housing; living in conditions that the RSPCA would not permit for animals - and all that with this awful virus on top.

As we worry about jobs and income lost in the hospitality and travel sectors, there must be a corresponding surplus of money that has not been spent in the usual way…….. will the crisis bring about a rethink in how we use resources?

Supporting the Foodbank is both needed and within our reach, but how can we reach further? All charities are struggling in this pandemic, not only overseas aid but mental health, Pudsey's "Children in Need" and very many others are ready to make good use of everyone's unspent "cruising and boozing" budgets!!!

We are all in this pandemic together .... we are all in this same world together!!

25th COLUMN - to print 8th Oct 2020

Situation normal for the Foodbank!

Amazing support throughout the last 6 months enables "normal" in the foodbank to be plenty of supplies and enough volunteers.

There were 1,200 deliveries in the last 6 months - some for single people, many for families - approximately 50,000 meals!!

"Normal" in the Exmouth area is having food, heating and a roof. The whole community has come together to help The Larder provide food for those in a crisis. We should also support volunteers in Citizens Advice, helping people navigate through the maze of benefit applications and other issues, the badly needed NHS Mental Health team and EDDC housing team.

"Normal" for some people is still a struggle with disability, illness, addictions, mental health and low income. The pandemic has increased the gap between people struggling to cope and the rest of us using internet!

8 Years ago, Holy Trinity donated its Harvest Festival as stock for the start of the Exmouth Community Larder. Despite all the pandemic alerts, Harvest Festival donations are now arriving from lots of churches, with school collections to follow.

Meanwhile, donations have come in from the whole community, many different faiths and no faith at all. As we think of the Mayflower heading west to discover (?) America, there were native American tribes already aware of the Great Spirit, who created the mountains, rivers and plains, and giving hope for daily bread and good behaviour!

We can all now celebrate this spirit of help and togetherness in the greater Exmouth area for the last 6 months - but also worry about the next 6 months. In the Community Larder we are well geared for the food crisis to continue - with your support - and the food crisis will probably get worse before it gets better!!

Thank you and keep your support coming!!

24th COLUMN to print 9th Sept 2020

A new normal or a new world?

What is normal? Is "normal" what we remember? How far back - March this year?? .... or ten or twenty years ago with active shops in town??

Or is the new normal what we wish for, global warming receding, less traffic and no trash on the beaches?

Today is "normal" for today; yesterday was the route by which we got here - good or bad. Tomorrow is what we have to play for!

For most of us in Exmouth "normal" is having enough food in the cupboard and a roof over our head - many other desirable things are only options. But for some "normal" is struggling to keep going in the face of adversity, disability, family in trouble, lack of money, addiction, mental health or other issues; holidays abroad are an unbelievable luxury!

The virus is here to stay; a vaccine will suppress it. Politicians stress optimism and drug companies are ready to sell, but a vaccine must be both safe and effective. How long must a vaccine be in use before we know it is effective? A couple of years may not be enough. The experts do not yet know if people who recovered from the virus remain immune; only time will give the answer, and this virus may mutate like 'flu does!

So, "new normal" is "what we got", most certainly not what we want!

The virus changed The Exmouth Community Larder. There is a large team of new volunteers, the working pattern altered to keep everyone well spaced, deliveries are now normal to avoid people congregating to collect.

Sharing resources for the common good is part of the new "normal" as evidenced by the generosity of donations and volunteering in The Larder.

We are all in this together; one large community with the chance of a new world not just a new normal!

23rd COLUMN to print 29th July 2020

We need to support the people who need the support of society

Slavery still has victims today; in the modern world slavery takes many forms and involves all variations of race and colour. Illegal immigrants in the UK are pressed into servile jobs with unacceptable living conditions, no doubt also in other countries.

In Asia there are "sweatshops" producing goods very cheaply, with dreadful living conditions, while middlemen make big profits selling to retailers in the UK so people can purchase "bargains".

Shock-horror - the news has found that this exists in Leicester; maybe not racial, maybe the profiteers come from the same community as their workers??

Even around us there are people living hand to mouth with uncertain job prospects, simply bound to keep going whatever the conditions to feed their family. Some are migrant workers, others are trapped into a situation by illness or the illness of a loved one who cannot be abandoned. Some are picking our vegetables, others working in care homes or in 'hospitality'.

People in conditions which they are obliged to accept in order to survive could be described as enslaved. Oddly enough, American history tells us that the slaves once freed were not much better off - they still needed to work for food and shelter!

Enslavement needs to be eradicated; racial discrimination needs to be eradicated - but they are separate issues.

In the foodbank we see people trapped in situations by illness, addictions and other problems. The answer is not to topple statues or make gestures, but to support those people who need support within our own reach.

The Citizen's Advice and other agencies need all the help they can get to protect and promote the society we would like to be; volunteers need to come forward; politicians need to be lobbied! We should purchase carefully, to avoid supporting child labour or sweated labour.

22nd COLUMN to print 1st July 2020

Embarrassment at needing help

The embarrassment of some needy people to seek help worries us at The Larder. Thanks to the voluntary generosity of the whole community we have enough; Government Benefits and grants come from involuntary taxation; generosity towards other people comes from the same source - all from our pockets!

If you need help, don't worry about asking - the time to feel embarrassed is when failing to share when personal finances are back to normal and there is enough to spare!!

Individuals have different qualities. Extrovert and articulate people frequently get to be in charge, expressing views, forming public opinion, being managers, getting elected. Quiet introspective people are often working on the technical stuff in the background, and are not easily heard - and it is not in their make-up to push themselves forward. Often the quiet ones know better than voluble people.

If you feel nervous about asking for help, this message is for you!! Speak up! - if you need food help from the Community Larder send us an email or make a phone call.

Food help is now provided by The Community Larder to anyone who needs food without a formal referral. Anyone in lockdown, isolating or just plain short of food can ask the Larder directly for food. Agencies, such as Citizens' Advice, are also in lockdown, working by phone, so this way of working fits them too.

The community is amazing, which is just as well to keep pace with the need! Rivermead Post Office, Tesco, Co-op stores, The Strand pub, The Beach and many others and individuals are collecting or donating supplies. Cash to fill gaps on the shelves is coming from lots of individual people plus businesses like the Rockfish restaurant. All keeping us afloat

THANKS to everyone in the greater Exmouth area, helping others!!

21st COLUMN to print 4th June 2020

Hindsight and plans for the future

Hindsight gives a form of wisdom. After 3 months in this crisis, past decisions can now be evaluated with hindsight - very often we would all of us have made different decisions if only we could have seen ahead!

The future is not clear - the only thing evident is that interviewers will hound politicians for definite answers in areas where nobody really knows! But it is very clear that life will be very different for most people for a long time. Travel and Holidays are important in the West Country, as are farming and fishing - all will see big changes.

Hindsight can help us plan ahead. No-one would now doubt the importance of support for Care Homes and Care in the Community; let us push for these lessons to be learnt so that future policies strengthen support for the elderly, the sick, the weak, mental health issues and all disadvantaged people. We must all help by responding to these many challenges, whether as volunteers, social workers or ordinary people with concern for our neighbours.

We all know that we need to follow the national guidelines, but we suspect that driving to a faraway beach or relative does not affect the statistics. Democracy enables us to vote for what we personally want or think is right, but we are also part of a much greater group. Individual behaviour contributes to the whole; we are all in this together!! Let us hope that the majority of people heed the message!.

With total uncertainty, the only clear prediction is that the Exmouth Community Larder will need to provide food help for a long time. Thanks to volunteering and donations from the whole community of the Exmouth area, the Larder is in a good position to continue meeting this long term challenge.

20th COLUMN - to print 13th May 2020

F F & F .... Food, Family and Friends.!

Food is always the first essential, shelter and warmth are usually cited second and third but most of us take them from granted - but not all; there are still people homeless.

Family and Friends are now valued more than ever. In "normal" times we took socialising for granted, while looking forward to holidays, things to buy and lots of other stuff. We now all have a chance to re-evaluate what really matters in our lives!!

Food is still a major issue. The Community Larder handed out 3 (three!) times more this April than any previous April!!

Everyone has rallied to the obvious need.

Donations of food and cash have so far kept abreast of demand, so The Larder has not needed to dip into its reserves, yet!! No individual takes anything from Larder funds; all that donors give goes on provisions.

With more than 80 volunteer offers our teams are well staffed leaving others in reserve - many disappointed as not able to contribute yet, but safety requires good social distancing. Only a few people can work at any one time, though more shifts are being added.

The future is very uncertain; victory by the medics over the virus will surely be followed by a very different world in which many jobs will have disappeared. People who had good jobs with excellent prospects will no longer be needed. There is no knowing how long the food emergency will continue for many people.

So thanks to the support of the whole community of Exmouth and surrounds, the Community Larder seems well positioned to continue providing food support for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, let's remember in the long term the value we put on Friends and Family and the importance of supporting our "neighbours", whether they live next door or not!!

Column To print April 8th 2020

Food - a fixed point in a vastly changed world!

With all the changes, we look for some fixed point. Food, of course, followed by shelter. The modern world has fallen apart, many things that we relied upon are not there - with the major exceptions of the telephone, internet ...... and friends and neighbours!

The Community Larder immediately lost 15 volunteers "self isolating" but now have 24 new volunteers. This highlights the main thing we still have, a common bond to help one another when things get tough.

Churches closed, cutting off donation points; so people gave cash, but panic buying stopped us purchasing in bulk - converting cash into provisions! However Andrew, from the Salvation Army, has now found a way through this problem!

The Community Larder policy established that we should provide food to anyone needing it, including those "self isolating". Experience of Exmouth generosity tells us that people we help will be generous donors when they can afford it!!

We do have good reserves and fully expect to keep going through all this, but who knows how much is needed or for how long!

We continue to open 1.30-3.00pm on Mondays and on Fridays for those who need to collect food, but strongly prefer to deliver to anyone with an address to avoid too many people congregating!

The Larder has reorganised into more smaller sessions, reducing the number of volunteers at any time to sort donations and purchases and packages for delivery. This safeguards volunteers while keeping things going and enables us to expand throughput if needed.

We now have an extra session on Wednesdays but it is a changing situation - the number of volunteers has grown while writing this and the number of sessions may increase!!
See updates on the website www.exmouthlarder.co.uk
For help, email to help@exmouthlarder.co.uk

or call 07787 882075 or 07749 322291.

Column 18 To print March 11th 2020

Stress and trauma; show care and concern for others.

Traumatic stress occurs in many of our lives at some point; the recent suicide of a TV presenter dominated the news for several days. How many other people suffered traumatic stress during that time? Parents losing a child, homelessness, family separation or extreme circumstances faced by the emergency services, all throw us mentally off track and leave a permanent scar.

The Foodbank sees many such instances, but many volunteers have experienced enough to understand the stress of others; many of us have been through traumatic stress ourselves and come through it. It is easy to write "overcome it", but more correct to say we have come to terms with it and pressed on despite the past.

So when the media focuses on what it sees as "major events", we should give some thought for all the "little stuff" which doesn't make the news - but which is equally devastating to those involved, if not more so.

Coronavirus is the big news item now - but how many more people have flu which can also become serious for vulnerable patients.

The message is surely to listen and share concern for all those around us, in the locality, the shop check-out, in the street and all the events of our daily lives. To share concern and caring, (but not sneezes!!).

I saw a car sticker "not all disabilities are visible"; this is actually true in a minor way for many of us. We do not know what is going on with other people - the grumpy response may not be personal, but because the person has another problem. The over effusive greeting may simply cover an inner grief.

Self isolate with a virus, but otherwise interact positively with all those around, most of whom value a caring word and thought.

Column 17 to print Feb 5th 2020

A hand-up, not a hand-out!!

With increased demand, the foodbank objective remains to provide supplies to people in a genuine "food emergency", but also to ensure active support to recover from their "underlying crisis"

Referrals from statutory bodies, such as EDDC, Devon CC and the NHS imply that the situation is known and monitored. Also, the Citizen's Advice Bureau, the Open Door Centre and Action for Children (the old Children's Centre) are active in providing advice and support to people in trouble.

Anyone is welcome to come to the Foodbank after encouragement from schools, churches, GP practices and others and we will help them with their food emergency, but further visits will need a referral from an agency evidencing that they are engaging with support to overcome their problem.

THANK YOU for the generous level of donations from the community, but we are aware of the foodbank's responsibility to use this to give needy people a "hand-up", not just an easy "hand-out"!!

Some visitors do give us cause for concern, but our stated policy from the outset was that it is better to give people the benefit of any doubt than to risk leaving hungry people without food.

Of more concern are people who truly need help but who do not reach us. After 7 years most people probably know where we are, but some feel awkward asking for help. Our answer is not to feel embarrassed at asking for help - the time to feel embarrassed is when back on their feet and failing to give something to others!!

We have people truly needing help but failing to engage with support; we have people who become volunteers while still needing help; inevitably there are some who take advantage; addictions to drink, gambling or drugs need treatment and help. Hey-Ho!! Life is not always clear cut.

Column 16 To print Dec 18th 2019

Election promises go beyond Brexit; we need to lobby our new MP to ensure that the Benefit System starts listening to the realities of disorganised and disadvantaged people and Mental Health gets much more attention. People in difficulties are often not internet connected nor organised; the welfare system administration needs serious review.

Christmas should remind us that it was the rough sleepers minding sheep who were priveleged to have the first news of Jesus' birth, not the great and good of society!. I heard that a youngster was declined as a shepherd in a Nativity play because he was not scruffy or smelly enough (just a story!). But as we get immersed in the "magic" of an affluent Christmas, remember that Jesus' young mother was a refugee, his birth was in a stable, and they were soon refugees again, fleeing into Eqypt.

Foodbank demand increased 30% in 2019; the "mouths we feed" has increased 50% because more families are in need; a full update can be found at www.exmouthlarder.co.uk.

THANKS to the whole of greater Exmouth, we have enough supplies and reserves to support the need for the moment, and hope support continues. All money goes on supplies; no-one gets paid, not even milage for deliveries! With record numbers attending recently, the team has kept up well. It is good to report younger volunteers.

In our comfortable corner of a very troubled world, Christmas is a good time to realise how the First Christmas came to disadvantaged people in a society full of refugees!! They still need our help!!

Christmas is a time when stresses are at their worst for many people. The Larder helps with food but can also give some comradeship. Being hungry is not a good place to regain self esteem after troubling events and difficult relationships.

Column 15 To print Nov 13th 2019

Plastics, Global Warming, Brexit, an Election and then Christmas. So many worries, so little time!!

Wooden toys and paper bags instead of plastic? There is research to find an enzyme or bug that will eat plastic - what about the toilet seat and mooring ropes for boats?

Walking or cycling reduces carbon emissions; even electric cars have a big carbon footprint. A brisk walk to the gym and back may also save the fees; another woolly jumper reduces the heating; we live in a holiday region, so why fly?

Brexit may mean a shortage of foreigners who work for low wages to pick our fruit and vegetables, staff hotels and other jobs we don't like. Is that not taking advantage of other people's disadvantage?

For the Election : "Remember Guy Fawkes, the one person who went to Parliament intending to keep his promise".

Christmas brings stress nowadays to many people, whether being lonely when others seem to be having fun or trying to make ends meet while buying presents. In the Foodbank we will remain open Mondays and Fridays during Christmas and New Year; the basics for meals are more important than mince pies! Also, let's keep cheerful and spread warmth, every smile and friendly word may help to break through someone's cloud of stress.

The angel came first to announce the birth of Jesus to Shepherds on the hillside, rough sleepers and the outcasts of society - not the religious leaders or senior officials! That tells us how to prioritise those in menial, disadvantaged or troubled situations.

Meanwhile let's do what is within reach to reduce plastic, avoid carbon emissions, pay the right price for menial work and express our views at the ballot box ..... but above all spread unselfish good humour and generosity to everyone we meet.

Column 14 to print Oct 16th 2019 ??

Brexit is unimportant to anyone without food or money. Foodbank usage has seriously increased in 2019

As a voter, I have no difficulty with the need to verify people's circumstances before giving "benefits". This is only a sensible response to abuses that the press has uncovered.

As a taxpayer, I have no problem recognising that people who need a modest amount of help in our otherwise complex society should receive it.

As a Foodbank volunteer, I am outraged that people who had learned to manage complex situations are suddenly left with nothing at all: an official proposing they should find a foodbank is out of order; to prorogue benefits for five weeks should be referred to the Courts……

I do not believe either voters or taxpayers support this - in fact I am not sure that MP's or senior officials would agree it either - but it is what is happening, and it is reflected in the sudden increase in people needing support from The Community Larder. Maybe junior officials could be graded, like football clubs, and the bottom ones swap places with their more able clients…...

Complex situations often do involve significant disability issues, both physical and mental, so further assessment does need medical opinions as well as financial reviews. But people being suddenly cut off while a new review takes place and given the advice to seek the foodbank is surely not what society expects!!

Meanwhile, with the wonderful support of the community, The Community Larder continues to supply provisions to those who really need them, many due to unforeseen and unforeseeable turmoil due to injury, health or relationship problems, which occur to most of us at some point in our lives - and of course we supply to those temporarily "cut off" by officialdom!

Column 13 to print Sept 4th 2019

The Exmouth Community Larder currently has about 30% increased need. The previous average demand had been fairly steady for nearly 5 years. The Larder continues in the same way; referring agencies are mostly the same; volunteers are mostly the same - there is no clear reason for the increase, but delay around the new "Universal Credit" is a partial explanation.

Many people have difficulties and become disorganised. There are instances of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress) not only from military backgrounds. Lots of us do have traumatic stress at some time due to bereavement, relationship breakdown and other horrid experiences. Support agencies are there to help, but being hungry does not help the making of good decisions!.

On the positive side THANK YOU to the whole community of the Exmouth area whose donations it is The Larder's job and privilege to pass along. As well as Exmouth, donations come from Exton, Lympstone, Woodbury, both Budleighs, and Otterton and everywhere inside that circle.

The Salvation Army has increased the amount of space we use, creating an additional sorting room with shelving all around. This is valuable already, but with the surge in donations which we hope for over Harvest Festivals and Christmas we will not know how we managed before!

Brexit turmoil will surely bring shortages, due to panic buying triggered by alarms in the reported news. However we expect to keep supplying people in need, "whatever the whether......whether we do or whether we don't!"

For Harvest Festival gifts, we already do have lots of soup, baked beans and tuna, but are really short of other basics. Cash donations enable us to fill the gaps with economic purchasing and the new sorting room enables us to buy and store larger quantities.

With your help ..... we continue!!

www.exmouthlarder.co.uk gives more complete Larder news.

Column 12 to print July 31st 2019

Loneliness and isolation are a big problem; what can we do about it?

When people come to the Community Larder we give them food - supported by your generosity, the whole community. We can also signpost them to whoever might help with their underlying crisis - CAB, The Open Door Centre or whoever referred them. We can go further, encouraging them to engage with people who could help.

But as individuals they are still alone; loneliness and isolation are lousy companions to get a disrupted life back on track!!

We all need to communicate more; even the person on check-out at the supermarket gets lonely, scanning barcodes and taking payment from people in too much hurry. No-one in the queue talks to anyone either. Maybe this is repeating the ideas of my last column, but the issue is important and doesn't go away.

What can we do? In The Larder we usually provide tea and biscuits and have no problem with people coming in just to associate with others; the Open Door Centre is another community location. It is a funny world; we have clients in bad situations who nevertheless provide support for others who need someone to talk to. Even after church services, there are strangers coming for "coffee and fellowship" who are not included in the various groups who gather with each other.

Talk to someone today you never spoke to before. If they respond, you may have a conversation - if they don't respond, at least you tried!! Say "hello" or "good morning" to every other person you pass in the street - see how many others greet you!!

The Community Larder provides food to help people; but there's more help we can all give for free; who has not experienced loneliness at some time?

Column 11

Seattle, in the north west of the USA, is named after Chief Seattle of the Duwamish tribe who became famous for a speech in 1854 promoting tolerance and social values between peoples, and also a great concern for the environment. He grew up with awareness of The Great Spirit which had made the mountains and the sky, the rivers and the plains and which gave guidance on behaviour to his and other American peoples.

Loneliness and isolation are increasingly featured in today's news reports; everyone is intent on their own agenda - or is this true? 80% of strangers in the street or in the check out queue seem happy to share an idea or a thought, maybe to start a significant conversation.

The Community Larder focusses on supplying food, but often breaking down the feeling of isolation, being treated as a person who matters is as important as the food. Of course some people want to be left on their own, but we can all help those for whom the isolation is a darkness that welcomes a light being shone into it.

We have all experienced the problem, caused by a bereavement or some other major upheaval. Post Traumatic Stress affects a lot of people. We think of the military, but there are also medics dealing with nasty accidents, all sorts of situations in the complexities of modern life.

We can worry about lots in The News; the question is "what can we actually do!" There are dreadful situations all over the world about which we can do very little, but also some dark corners here in the Exmouth area into which a little light can be shone by the simpest act of communication and kindness.

"Social media" needs a smartphone; being sociable just needs a smile!

Column 10c for printing 19th June 2029

There were 602 visits to The Larder in the six months to the end of May, providing food for 1,330 people including family members, a 25% increase on previous years. The Universal Credit scheme seems to be part of the cause. These delays leave people who do not have savings destitute for a month before money arrives.

The Larder insists on clients getting help with their underlying crisis. Maybe we also need to get help for officials to understand the real world!! Politicians and officials succeed by being organised; many people are disorganised; it is these we see in the Community Larder

Spending on mental health is now a record, as Sir Hugo Swire MP reports, which is excellent - but I am sure he would agree past spending was too low. Education is another issue - schools are measured by high achievers; the really good teacher is the one who improves the very limited ability and self esteem of difficult pupils. Many people do not have cooking or budgeting skills.

Anyone in a food emergency can come to The Exmouth Community Larder without any referral voucher. Typically they will receive provisions and be signposted to an agency that can help with their underlying problem.

We have lots of non perishable foods, including long life milk, weekly some fresh vegetables and fruit, and also washing powder, shampoo, toiletries, and dog and cat food. In addition to pets, many people living rough have a dog to guard their belongings,

We do not have fresh or frozen perishable food as we cannot be sure of its history and this would be contrary to hygiene rules and commonsense.

Thank you, Exmouth, for helping the Exmouth Community Larder to continue its mission providing basics to those who are more in need than most of us!!

Column 10b sent as a Letter :

Following recent enquiries please can we explain how the Exmouth Community Larder does operate, while thanking the Exmouth area for their continuing support.

Anyone in a food emergency - without food or money to buy food - CAN come to us without any referral voucher. Typically they will receive provisions and also be signposted to an agency that can help with their underlying problem.

We do not have fresh or frozen perishable food as we cannot be sure of its history, so this would be contrary to hygiene regulations and commonsense. But we do have long life milk and also some vegetables and fruit kindly donated by The Farm Shop weekly.

We do give out washing powder, shampoo and toiletries as needed, and also can provide dog food and cat food. Many people living rough have a dog to guard their belongings over night in addition to people keeping pets.

In the last 6 months we had 621 visits, providing food for 1,395 people including family members. A summary of who we are and how we work was the basis for the last Larder update - copy attached.

Column 10a - printed as a Letter 29th May 2019

An update from the Exmouth Foodbank

The Exmouth Community Larder had 407 clients up to April this year, feeding 937 people including family. February and March had record demand. Since we opened 6 years ago we have given about 5,400 parcels - comprising 75,600 tins, plus bread, biscuits, milk and cereals.

So THANK YOU GREATER EXMOUTH for your generosity.

This has been achieved by more than 30 volunteers - though not all at once! None has had any payment, not even expenses, so all money donated to The Larder has gone towards provisions.

Larder Policy is a "Hand-up not a Hand-out". We help people in a "Food Emergency", but expect them to get help with the "Underlying Crisis" that brought them down. Often clients are referred by an agency that can help, but if not we signpost them to an agency with trained support staff such as the CAB or Open Door Centre.

People in a food emergency can walk in without a voucher. We review their problem, give them supplies and signpost them to a suitable agency; any further help needs to be supported by a referral from that agency. Our policy is to ensure that clients needing help are engaging with support.

Referrals from GP's, schools, nurses and other professionals are obviously valid, but we also know that they do not all have the time or training to help with Benefit claims, debt management advice or other needs; so clients are signposted to those who can help with these issues.

It is easy to lose self respect when things go so badly wrong as to need help to get food; but no-one thinks clearly when hungry. So we try to give a sense of belonging as well as food - we all need help of one sort or another at some point in our lives!

Column 9, sent 1st May 2019

Memories and reflections on Progress

My grandfather drove a team of horses in the countryside but was recruited by the London Omnibus Company who were short of people experienced with horses. So he became a London bus driver. I wonder how he felt and thought when they confronted him a few years later with a motor bus in place of his horses! Life moves on!

Historians tell us that London traffic 100 years ago was no slower than it is today with all the congestion; there was pollution of course, but it could be gathered up and worked wonders on the Roses and the Rhubarb. Also, the horses knew better than to run into one another. Life moves on!

In my student days, many years ago, when the local shop had biscuits delivered in a huge tin, we could buy a pound or two measured into a paper bag. This was slightly cheaper but also much better than disentangling the plastic packaging which was starting to be standard. But life moves on!

My last column commented how society seems to have turned away from people having care and concern for other locals in their neighbourhood, but providing support area wide. Repeated thanks to the whole Exmouth area for continuing to support the Community Larder.

Progress is not all good. We rush by car to a gym to keep fit - a brisk walk to the gym and back might serve just as well. Progress has brought more tons of plastic and carbon dioxide than our fathers could have imagined. Exchanging half the spaces in the town car park for cycle racks would generate even more hot air, but think how it would help obesity and air pollution!

Growing old and retired allows the mind to wander. But are all these thoughts so very daft?

Column 8, sent 2nd April 2019 -

Record demand at the Exmouth Community Larder

There was record demand in March at the Exmouth Community Larder. November, December and January are always busy, but this year February continued with a very high level of need and March has even exceeded that!

An increased proportion of clients referred to The Larder by key agencies have Benefit problems, whether payment delays, not receiving as much as expected or finding that the Benefit has been swallowed by repaying a loan.

As usual, we also have people with surprise troubles - a partner who has taken the car, the money and credit cards, but left the children! Or people for whom everything was running well until a sudden injury or illness has left them without the expected income, but with long term commitments for TV services, car leases and the like.

No-one is going to handle things positively when hungry or with unfed children. The Larder's task is to provide basic food when it is really needed, leaving the referring agencies, CAB, EDDC, Open Door and others to help sort out the problems.

Society has changed. In years gone by, local neighbours would have helped people in trouble and saving for a rainy day was normal. Now, advertising encourages borrowing to stimulate the economy by using credit cards and loans to acquire more and more stuff…….

The part that used to be played by neighbours helping within the locality is now played by the whole community supporting ventures such as the Exmouth Community Larder.

So a big THANK YOU to the whole community of the Exmouth area for continuing to support the contribution that the unpaid volunteers at the Exmouth Community Larder are able to pass on.

Thanks also to Tesco, the Co-op, churches and many others who provide convenient collecting points for donations.

Column 7, Printed 6th February 2019 ?

East Devon District Council works to make sure vulnerable people are helped.

EDDC offices in Exmouth Town Hall are open 5 days per week which saves clients travelling to the Exeter Job Centre. Staff are not just looking at benefit issues but also discretionary housing payments, money advice, identifying if clients qualify for any other benefits and making links with other services.

In one case, due to health problems, a customer was unable to work, only receiving a small amount of sick pay and struggling. After detailed discussion, EDDC moved her council tax instalments so none fell due in the 5 week waiting time, put a hold on her rent account so she wasn't chased for money and referred her to the local foodbank which could also get her gas and electric topped.

She said that EDDC were the only people who had been willing and able to help her, as she had stopped eating herself just so her son didn’t go hungry. She had been frightened of applying for Universal Credit because it was all online, but once we helped her set up her account she realised that it wasn’t so difficult and could use the system.

Knowledge of working with Universal Credit is shared between EDDC and Exmouth Citizens Advice. EDDC makes referrals to the Community Larder as appropriate, the Money Advice service is provided by Homemaker SW, EDDC staff also help with online forms.

The Exeter Job Centre went live with Universal Credit in September 2018 and has an EDDC Benefit Officer on the spot to help local clients.

It is brilliant to report that our local council and its staff can be numbered amongst those who help disadvantaged people in the neighbourhood; in the Community Larder we have seen this since we started!!

Column 6, printed 16th January 2019

Christmas with all its affluent excesses is now behind us and we settle back to normal life.

The Bible story tells how the baby Jesus was rushed to Egypt as a refugee from the murderous despotic king Herod - so much for mankind then and now

While 2018 was a record year for people needing help at The Larder, 2014 was very similar - needs don't seem to change as much as one would expect. Thanks to your generosity in the run up to Christmas, we now have more reserves than ever before, so are well placed to support whatever is needed in 2019. Donations always drop off after the Harvest Festivals and Christmas, so please don't imagine the job is "done"!!

Whatever crisis people face, being hungry doesn't assist a balanced response to the problem. On the other hand, getting food hand-outs does not by itself help people to face their problems. This may well be to get expert help to challenge a ruling after Benefits are curtailed; it can be to get help confronting an addiction; perhaps a family problem; there are as many reasons as we have clients!

Of course there are a few people we suspect of "taking advantage". We are conscious of our responsibility to donors who expect us to give food only to people who truly need it. The referring agencies help to establish the correct balance.

More worrying are people who do not come to us for whatever reason but who do have a "food emergency". No-one should feel embarrassed at coming to ask for help; the time to feel embarrassed is failing to give something back when life returns to a balance, maybe a few years later.

A happy New Year to all, with kindness and compassion throughout!

Column 5, printed 12th December 2018

Thank you for all your help to the Exmouth Community Larder! The need continues, 2018 is the busiest year yet; people have a wide range of problems. The Open Door Centre, the Work Club and the CAB all combine to give people a hand up.

People we see in The Exmouth Community Larder are generally disorganised. Maybe a balanced life has been thrown adrift by the loss of a job, a bereavement, a separation, an accident, ill health or an addiction, whether alcohol, drugs or gambling.

We all expect politicians and administrators to be organised, but the Welfare System is so organised that it is difficult for people in a muddle. There are appointments to be kept, complex forms and a lot requiring the internet.

Thanks to Helen Tribble at Open Door, Simon Skidmore at the Glenorchy Work club and Hilary Nelson at the CAB, this column highlights what volunteers do to help people in trouble. But also important are the Mental Health team from St John's Court, Action for Children, Health Visitors, schools, churches and many others, not least the Welfare and Housing departments of EDDC.

The recent budget announcement of more money for Mental Health is particularly welcome - a great many of us lose our bearings at some time in life!

Meanwhile, the area has been quite amazing with supplies of tinned and packet food, coming from Lympstone, Exton, Woodbury, both Budleighs and Otterton, as well as Exmouth and Brixington. The schools have played an especially valued part, not only the quantity of donations, but the awareness and concern of our young people for those less fortunate.

The Community Larder's reserves are now better stocked than ever. Lots of berries on bushes in the autumn often presages a really hard winter - are well stocked reserves an indicator of troubles ahead??

Column 4, drafted 15th October 2018 - printed 1st November
(contributed by Hilary Nelson, CAB, CEO for E Devon)

'Whoever you are, whatever your problem, we're here to help." This is the mission statement of Citizens Advice East Devon, the local charity that runs the comprehensive Citizens Advice service for Devon, which also refers people in need to The Community Larder.

Staffed almost exclusively by volunteers, who must complete up to two years’ training to qualify to give advice, the charity offers an all-round, free advice service which covers all the common problems that affect people’s daily lives.

So far this year the Exmouth office has supported almost 1,700 people. Clients have been helped to manage their money and increase their incomes, deal with debt and make sure that they receive the benefits they are entitled to, and been supported with underlying issues like housing problems, employment, consumer complaints or family issues. A recent grant through the Energy Best Deal initiative means that they will be continuing to offer in depth support around reducing energy costs to help people out of fuel poverty.

The charity is working in partnership with the District Council and other local groups to support people claiming Universal Credit, a change to the benefits system that went fully live in the Exmouth area at the end of September. “This is the biggest shake up to the benefits system in a generation,” says Lesley Groves, who manages the Exmouth office. “We know that some people are struggling to access the new system and aren’t aware that there is support available for them. I’d encourage anyone who has a problem to come in and talk to us.”

You can access Citizens Advice Services in person at their offices at 36A Rolle Street, open 9:30 - 12 and 1 - 3:30 Monday - Friday. For telephone advice call Devon Adviceline on 03444 111 444. You can find useful information on common problems on the Citizens Advice Website: www.citizensadvice.org.uk.

Column 3 printed 11th Oct??
(contributed largely by Simon Skidmore, Glenorchy Work club))

Finding paid work is an important way out of a crisis, but looking for work can be stressful for people with nowhere to go or anyone to help.

In 2008 the Exmouth Job Centre closed; with nothing else to replace it the nearest assistance for job seekers was in Exeter.

In 2011 the Glenorchy United Reform Church decided to help the local community by setting up a Work Club in the town, based in the Church hall. There was a need then; in 2018 the need is still there!

The Work Club provides a safe, friendly, non-judgemental environment, where people can come and get basic help with topics such as, preparing CV’s, completing application forms, Interview techniques, the use of a phone, and the like. We have several computers with internet connection for clients' use, and also newspapers, local and national job vacancy listings.... plus tea, coffee and biscuits!

Signposting is an important part of what we do. If we can’t help with a problem, we usually know an organisation that can.

Currently we are have an in-house IT training course, run by Elite Training. This covers setting up for the new Universal Credit Benefit which many people will have heard about.

Careers South West, which offers help to our younger job seekers, also makes regular visits. The Glenorchy Work Club annual Jobs Fair, usually in April, at which employers also take part, has proved very successful.

Job searching is a job in itself, so if you would like a little help, or are working but want to change jobs, come for a coffee and a friendly chat.

The Work Club is open every Thursday morning from 9.15 to 12.15 in the Glenorchy church hall, close to Specsavers at the start of the Exeter Road. There are signs outside!

Column 2 - printed 27th Sept.
(contributed largely by Helen Tribble, Open Door)

Nothing to eat and no money to buy food is the eventual nightmare. The most immediate thing is to find food, but more important in the long term is to find a way out of the crisis.

Open Door Exmouth is a local charity running six projects in Exmouth: Child Contact Centre, Nightshift, Men's Shed, Haven, the ICE project (based in Exmouth Community College), and the Community Cafe, on the corner of Church Street and South Street.

The Community Cafe is open to everyone, with a low cost menu to make it accessible to all. For those who aren't in need of support, it's a warm, friendly environment and a nice place to go to 'give something back'. For those who find themselves in need of support, there is a team of volunteer support workers who will listen, advise and work out an action plan to help resolve the problem. They can also provide practical support including showers, laundry, clothing, and sleeping bags. Hot food, drinks and takeaway bags are also available to those working with the support team. There are telephones and computers to look for jobs or housing, or to make benefits applications or enquiries. The support team are also available to assist if needed. The Cafe also offers a donations based counselling service with qualified volunteer counsellors.

The Cafe is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9:30am to 3pm, with support available until 12:30pm.

To support the project, why not stop by for a coffee? You can also buy a coffee or a hot meal in advance for someone in need, by donating to their "Hungry and Homeless" scheme. Or if you've got any spare time, they are always in need of volunteers! Pop in or call 01395 224218 to find out more.

1st COLUMN printed 13th Sept 2018

With so much trouble in the news it is easy to feel indignant, but the real question is what can we actually do.

The Exmouth Community Larder only helps a tiny fraction of world problems, but the problems are real, local and immediate and we can do something about them.

The Exmouth Community Larder is six years old, now open Mondays and Fridays from 1.30 until 3pm in the Salvation Army hall, Sheppards Row, EX8 1PW.

Clients and customers have a wide variety of problems, but none of them is helped by going hungry! There are unexpected mishaps, and people get into silly situations. It is easy to think it is their own fault - it may be, but there are children and other people caught up and in any case help is needed to get out of the problem.

Family breakdown is too common, and can result in one partner having all the money and the other all the children! There is often no real doubt about rights and entitlements, but legal and other persuasions take time - The Larder bridges the gap.

A discussion with a man who had a regular and well paid job, led to the comment "I was off work from a sports injury for 5 weeks, and it was getting very tight". Most people are only a few pay slips away from a problem.

Caring for other people is in our DNA, as well as being one of the strongest Christian messages, as evidenced by the response to disasters large and small as well as the day to day caring in hospitals and hostels. With a great team of volunteers and the support of the community, the Exmouth Community Larder does its best to help.