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2014 reports from Exmouth Community Larder


Exmouth Community Larder, New Year 2014

The run up to Christmas was amazing. New records set for clients needing help were only exceeded by the enormous generosity of food and cash donations arriving. The Exmouth Journal ran articles in four issues before Christmas; donations are now coming from a wide range of people in the whole community. While started by the Churches, the Larder is now surely a community response - in the manner of previous ages when each neighbourhood would look after its own.

The increase in the proportion of larger families coming for help in December was matched by a generosity of Christmas treats from our donors. The two December openings after Christmas were quiet. However, the first half of January is close to the average for the previous six months, 48 packages serving 82 people. A small but steady trickle of people are using the fuel top-up scheme; but no-one will have more than two top-ups which slows demand!

Our wonderful team of volunteers have enabled us to keep abreast of the pressures. Everything really does work smoothly thanks to the ideas and energy of many people who have enabled our systems to evolve during our first year, but at times we are stretched. This warns us that we may not yet be organised enough. In 2014 we hope to increase our pool of volunteers, which will help.

Agencies referring clients have quite different skills supporting people in trouble. Problems range from housing needs, Learning Disabilities, rehabilitation both medical and social, or simply people unable to make ends meet through inadequate income or the costs of overwhelming debt. Being referred to the Community Larder for help in their food emergency is the one thing our clients have in common. In 2014 we aim to get a better understanding of how the many agencies work, and so improve our ability to signpost clients to the agencies best able to help them overcome the underlying financial crisis which causes the food emergency. We will shortly have a meeting with the major agencies to share experience and explore options.

Blessings for 2014 from all the Larder team


Larder report : 31st January 2014 .... Donor fatigue?

After the wonderful generosity over Harvest Festivals and especially Christmas, food donations have tailed off - but big THANKS to the many who are still bringing food in. Previous generosity has given us a healthy cash reserve, but we spent about 1,000 buying food in January against maybe 200 coming in. We did receive 1,500 cash during December, so there is no reason worry, but this is a good time to look ahead.

So we are seeking volunteers to help with food collection and lobbying food stores. We have not yet done this, but they are major suppliers to other foodbanks. Perhaps the wonderful response from churches and the general community has allowed us to be complacent!!

Demand in January continued strongly, 110 packages going out to serve 209 people, 20% down on the December surge but 20% up on the average for the last six months. In the second half of 2013 we had served 207 families with 591 food packages representing about 12,500 meals, including 27 rough sleepers.

We had a meeting with our main referrers, Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), the Open Door Centre, EDDC and the Glenorchy Work Club, to review how clients can be helped out of their crisis. This discussion continues; two action items are creating a uniform approach to client signposting and bringing anomalies in the system to the attention of Hugo Swire, our MP.

Volunteer Group photo 494x195group.jpg

We celebrated our first full year of operation with a service and party; above are some of our volunteers who were able to attend with the Deputy Mayor and the District Commander of the Salvation Army for Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. The Exmouth Journal has given our work us excellent publicity, the Exmouth Herald also ran a major article - important as the Herald is free to everyone in the town.

So with help from everyone, the work continues ....... the needy are still with us!


Larder update : 15th February 2014 .... Donor fatigue?

After the wonderful generosity over Harvest Festivals and especially Christmas, food donations have tailed off - but big THANKS to the many who are still bringing food in. Previous generosity has given us a healthy cash reserve, but we spent about 1,000 buying food in January against maybe 200 coming in. We did receive 1,500 cash during December, so there is no reason worry, but this is a good time to look ahead.

So we are seeking volunteers to help with food collection and lobbying food stores. Supermarkets are major suppliers to other foodbanks. The wonderful response from churches and the general community had allowed us to be complacent!!

We received a very nice thank you card from a client we helped earlier, together with a cash donation. Not the first gift from a client, but we didn't get a proper card before! What matters most, he says, is that we helped him through a very difficult time; the space and time to talk seemed more important to him than getting provisions.

Very early on we had a desperate client arrive. While his supplies were gathered he started to chat with a volunteers, which continued for nearly an hour. When he left he called out "Thank you for the encouragement and for treating me like a person", then closed the door - only to open it again and say " . and thank you for the food too!! "

Many clients feel themselves failures and outcasts and are embarrassed to ask for help. But as we listen to stories, it is a very fine line that separates someone with home, job and family from someone living in a tent - many have lost one for the other. Some people with lots can't imagine it happening to them; some with nothing can't imagine how to get out of the hole. We see both on a weekly basis

We celebrated our first full year of operation with a service and party; above are some of our volunteers who were able to attend with the Deputy Mayor and the District Commander of the Salvation Army for Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.

The Exmouth Journal has given our work excellent publicity, the Exmouth Herald also ran a major article - important as the Herald is free to everyone in the town.

So with help from everyone, the work continues .... the needy are still with us!


Community Larder latest : 15th March 2014

Foodbanks have recently been in the news; Edwina Currie amazed that people cannot organise themselves to give family food priority and the Trussle Trust blaming the politics of Benefit Cuts for the need for Foodbanks. NEITHER viewpoint is supported by our experience in the Exmouth Community Larder.

Actual statistics for the last 3 months (Dec 13, Jan and Feb 2014) show that 26% of clients were referred by agencies specifically supporting disadvantaged people, such as Mental Health, Learning Disability and Child support. The other 74% came via the Open Door Centre (34%), EDDC Revenue and Benefits Dept (21%) and CAB (12%). We cannot identify details, but know that many of these people have also suffered adverse circumstances, not Benefit cuts or failure to provide sensibly. A year ago (15th April 2013) we reported a similar situation.

With concern that our clients should not only receive provisions to overcome their food emergency but also get the best help to resolve their underlying problem, six of us have now received training to provide targetted signposting, to guide clients where appropriate to agencies who can give them the best help. CAB have offered us a part time case worker, a specialist in housing, debt and benefits, who might be on site alternate Fridays. Plans will be worked out over the next month.

However, we do remain committed to our present friendly welcome desk, responding to the recommendations of referring agencies, with any further guidance an optional extra for those who want and need it.

Demand has slowed, though February 2014 still matches August 2013 which was a record at the time! Food donations have picked up, praise the Lord and thanks to you .... but we are still spending cash to make up shortages, so no time to be complacent.

Volunteer Group photo

We continue to be amazed, encouraged and thrilled by the support we receive from all kinds of contributors within the community, most of whom remain anonymous but to all of whom we owe the continued existence of The Larder and a great debt in facilitating the project and motivating all of us volunteering.


Larder latest : 15th April 2014 - Easter

People are at the heart of what we do. At the Walk of Witness on Good Friday we have space on the table presenting the parable of the Good Samaritan : Jesus' answer to the question "who is my neighbour". The lesson is "anyone needing help".

People who give are key; without donations of food or money we can do nothing. We are receiving more in cash - it saves haulage, compared with buying tins and getting them to a collection point and onward to The Larder. Donations by cheque should be made out to "The Salvation Army, Exmouth" with "Community Larder" written on the back; we can send bank details for standing orders if you email us. Gift Aid forms can be found at:- www.exmouthlarder.co.uk/giving - click on "Cash and Gift Aid".

People who volunteer are essential; we have steady teams on Mondays and Fridays all of whom seem to enjoy the comradeship of doing something useful among like minded people with a wide variety of church and non church backgrounds to keep conversation interesting in occasional quiet periods. It is easy to join - just turn up - maybe we are not as rigid keeping a rota as we should be .. formal application forms are needed for key tasks and regular volunteers, but otherwise we're relaxed.

The people we serve are our purpose; those of us who do have food for our tables serving those who are in trouble for one reaon or another. There are attempts to politicise the need for foodbanks around Benefit cuts. Years ago mutual support was normal in a neighbourhood or village; 70 years of the "welfare state", whether managed by Labour or Tory, has created a mood that expects the State to look after the people next door; 30 years of encouragement to boost the economy by buying on the never-never, whether managed by Tory or Labour, has edged many people into unsustainable debt. The Community Larder and foodbanks mark the start of a return to the old values of supporting each other across society.

And, of course, people in agencies working to help clients out of their dilemmas. A Food Emergency is often the final bump, but people patiently working with clients to rise above their underlying crisis is critical to providing the support they need.

HAPPY EASTER to all, donors, volunteers, agencies and above all to the clients we aim to help. For Christians, the Risen Lord is the motivation for all that we do; Jesus washing the feet of his disciples a lesson in service turning the world upside down. For all of us, the spring is sprung, the rain has stopped, new life is bursting forth, the tourists are arriving and most important to some .. seasonal jobs are coming into season and the nights are warmer!!


Larder latest : 19th May 2014

More volunteers would be welcome, especially through the summer as we lose people over the holiday period. Fridays are our busier day. Monday is less busy but ironically a more popular day for volunteers. So if you have Friday afternoons free ....

Our volunteers come from a wide variety of backgrounds, church and others which makes for interesting discussions about a wide range of subjects in quiet times!

Demand has settled to about 25 parcels given out each week, serving approximately 50 people. To keep up we need - every week - about 100 tins of beans, 80 tins of soup, 90 tins of vegetables, 40 boxes of cereal, 40 litres of long life milk, 66 tins of meat, 55 tins of fish, 36kg of pasta with 60 jars of sauce, 85 tins of rice pudding or custard, 48 tins of fruit and lots more - potatoes, bread, biscuits, sugar, jam, squash, toilet rolls and soap.

Without your generous food donations we would need 500 in cash; with your generous cash donations we fill gaps on our shelves and keep up with demand .....         So far so good ..... !

Our thanks go to the TSB in the corner of the Strand and now to SpecSavers in the Exeter Road who are collecting food for The Larder; Just Cards in the Indoor Market has done this from the beginning. This widens awareness of The Larder as a community venture; we value it beyond the amounts collected and look forward to others becoming collection points.

Exmouth Larder Logo         Exmouth Larder Logo

We appreciate these and the all the very many other collections which are enabling us to serve the community.

Major Steve Watson is moving on to a new ministry at the end of June. It was Major Steve who offered the Salvation Army hall enabling the Exmouth Community Larder to start in November 2012. We look forward to welcoming his successor!


Larder latest : 19th June 2014

Clients come to us in a "food emergency" - out of food, out of money and generally out of luck. With your help, we give them food and hopefully the realisation that there are people who care. This is a start - being hungry and desperate does not make it easy to plan a way forward; it can cause one bad decision to follow another.

The way upwards depends on getting money sorted out, whether Benefits, finding work, better Budgeting or surmounting debt problems. We are therefore requesting referral agencies to confirm whether or not they can help with these issues; of course many are already doing exactly that, but others such as schools and health workers are in the front line pointing out people in need but do not have specialist experience in these key fiscal areas.

So our policy has changed. Unlike many foodbanks we never limited the number of times a client can be referred to us. We are NOT changing that policy, but we will be discussing with more frequent clients the level of help they need and as necessary "signpost" them to appropriate agencies.

We have been helped by the CAB, who are making an experienced support worker available to be at The Larder from time to time, and by the Salvation Army who put on a two day training course in Exeter.

This will not cause any sudden change, but hopefully we will progessively be more helpful to clients.

Larder usage eased off in May and early June - it is too early to predict a trend or understand the reason. Nearby East Devon foodbanks have the same unexplained drop; probably it is a short term effect before autumn and winter set in. So, contrary to national publicity, our May usage was about the same as it was for May last year!

Major Steve Watson is leaving us for a new posting in Crewe. July 9th is his last day in Exmouth. Lieutenant Christine Baker takes over from him soon after. She and her husband have already visited us in Exmouth; we look forward to working with her and maybe recruiting her husband as a volunteer ...... !

We will miss Major Steve and wish him every success and blessing with his appointment to The Salvation Army in Crewe. We are happy to see a 22 year history of a Salvation Army foodbank in Crewe in addition to a well established Church.

Good luck and God bless Major Steve - one of our founding fathers!!


Exmouth Community Larder, mid summer 2014 : (19th July)

Demand is a little lower than it has been, though still ahead of last year when we were starting up. The holiday season leaves gaps in our volunteer rotas, but we have not yet had any major problems.

Food collections are no longer enough to supply what we need, but cash donations and low cost buying are maintaining our shelves. We look forward to the Harvest Festivals which we hope will replenish our stocks and reserves!

Major Steve of the Salvation Army has now left for his new appointment in Crewe after an excellent party and farewell service on 9th July. The installation of Lieutenant Christine Baker will be held at The Salvation Army, Sheppards Row, Exmouth on Saturday 26th July at 7pm, led by Majors Ian & Jean Harris, Divisional Leaders for The Salvation Army in the South-West. All welcome. We sometime forget that the Salvation Army is primarily a church, for all of its wonderful social works its "officers" are ordained ministers with churches and services to run.

As you know, Exmouth Community Larder was set up by Christians Together in Exmouth, with strong support from the Salvation Army, but embracing nearly all Exmouth churches and some non church people in its volunteers.

Apologies to our supporting agencies if response to emails is not as prompt as usual during the holiday season. Please send "eVouchers" in plenty of time.
...... and apologies for a brief report.


Exmouth Community Larder, mid summer 2014 : (17th August)

Food collections are no longer enough to supply what we need, but cash donations and low cost buying are maintaining our shelves. We look forward to the Harvest Festivals which we hope will replenish our stocks and reserves!

Demand is a little lower than it has been, though still ahead of last year when we were starting up. The holiday season has left gaps in our volunteer rotas, but we have not yet had any major problems.

Major Steve of the Salvation Army has now left for his new appointment in Crewe after an excellent party and farewell service on 9th July. Lieutenant Christine Baker was installled on Saturday 26th July at a service led by Majors Ian & Jean Harris, Divisional Leaders for The Salvation Army in the South-West. We sometime forget that the Salvation Army is primarily a church, for all of its wonderful social works its "officers" are ordained ministers with churches and services to run.

Exmouth Community Larder was set up with strong support from the Salvation Army by Christians Together in Exnouth embracing all the Exmouth churches; our volunteers today represent a wide range of churches as well as several non-church people. We make no distinction or demands on our clients who very obviously come from a very wide range of original backgrounds and current problems. Our donors come from an equally wide range of the Exmouth community, church and non-church.

As we take stock over the summer, ensuring support for our clients is an apparent issue. We are not a support agency and have no wish or mandate to become one, but we see people whose lack of food is an obvious demonstration that they are in crisis. The steps needed to get them back on their feet are often complex, needing the joined up support of several agencies. We can talk about health, wealth and happiness; coping with sickness, poverty and depression needs a lot of help.

So, once again, THANKS for all your support, food supplies continue to be welcome but also ideas and progammes to help our clients to get back on their feet. The range of agencies helping people and the understanding and sympathy of their support staff continue to be an inspiration.

Apologies to our supporting agencies if response to emails is not as prompt as usual during the holiday season. Please send "eVouchers" in plenty of time.


Exmouth Community Larder, mid September 2014

After nearly two years the Exmouth Community Larder is settling into a routine. Client needs are extremely variable, as the following graph shows. Demand over the summer period is about 7% down on last year; there was an unexplained drop in April 2014 - other local foodbanks had the same experience, but also several peaks.

Exmouth Larder graph

We are often asked if we provide a free hand-out service .... no .... we only give food to people who have been assessed by a competent agency and arrive with a referral voucher from them. During the summer, 50% of referrals have come from support workers at the Open Door Centre, 13% from the CAB, 10% from EDDC Revenue and Benefits Dept, 10% from Health Visitors, 9% other child and health related services, the balance from other small specialised agencies.

The Harvest Festivals last year were a bumper time for donors to give supplies; we have plenty of available space! However, regular donations are the lifeblood that keep us going, whether cash or non-perishable food. (Cheques should be payable to the Salvation Army with Exmouth Larder written on the back). We see people in all sorts of troubles; changes in the Benefit System cause only a fraction. Years ago people in most neighbourhoods looked after each other; the emergence of Foodbanks can be seen as the start of a return to the old values whereby more affluent people supported others in trouble who might in due course pay back - we have ex-clients among our volunteers and contributors. Jesus helped people without questioning their status, demonstrating how to show caring and compassion. We are a widely assorted group from many churches, and some from no church at all, all responding to clients in the way we believe we should.

Thank you for your continued support.


Exmouth Community Larder, mid October 2014

Thank You from Exmouth Larder THANKS to you all for the HARVEST FESTIVALS that have replenished our stocks so brilliantly. We had hoped this would happen, but the generosity has been a long way beyond our expectations!! THANK YOU ALL.

It has been great to see a community response from schools and individuals as well as churches, including the collection at the Mayor's Civic Service. It is tempting to mention particular schools, some of whom came "in crocodile" to The Larder to deliver in person, but to mention some will omit others - so thanks to ALL our donors.

Our opening times are changing, following discussions with support agencies. We will be open 2-4pm on Mondays and 1-3pm on Fridays starting November. This will help clients who need to get away earlier while fitting with volunteer availability.

Client demand remains variable from one week to the next, on average we continue to support about 20 clients a week, with 40 or 50 mouths to feed including children and partners. The reasons for a food emergency continue to be extremely varied; welfare reforms make an impact but are by no means the only issue. It is easy to categorise foodbanks as enabling more affluent people to help others who are short; another picture is giving assistance to people whose lives have become disorganised - but that isn't totally true as a few clients are trying very hard with sparse resources and the rest of us are not always as organised as we would like to think!

Most important is the need to reach people whom we know are in need of help but feel awkward to come forward - the only reason for embarrassment would be failing to give something in return once back on their feet. Most of us have had some reverses in our lives through bad luck or bad decisions; those of us who had enough reserves must sympathise with people who have nothing to fall back on.


Exmouth Community Larder, mid November report

Two years ago the Exmouth Community Larder started with a clear idea that something was needed, but none too sure how it would work. With abundant generosity from local churches and the community, and with support from many agencies helping people in trouble, we are now well established. Demand peaked in the summer of 2013 and again last December; we now have about 80 callers per month serving maybe 160 people - probably another peak will come this Christmas.

Our hours have changed, we are now open 1-3pm on Fridays and 2-4pm on Mondays (or on Tuesday when Monday is a Bank Holiday)

At Christmas, we will be open on Mondays 22nd and 29th December, and fully expect to be open Friday 26th (Boxing Day). Please check our "www.exmouthlarder.co.uk" for final confirmation of Boxing Day opening.

Thank You from Exmouth Larder Thank you all for your generosity over Harvest Festivals - reported last month but truly worth repeating! THANK YOU!! We do now have more than enough Tea, Cereal and Pasta; but we are relatively short of tinned potatoes, pasta sauces, long life milk, jam and tinned custard. All donations are now safely stored, including about 500 tins of beans and 500 tins of soup!! However we do give out fair quantities of these, so this is not an overstock.

Before the Harvest Festivals we had not been receiving so much actual food, but were using your cash donations to purchase what was needed. So THANK YOU also to those of you who donate cash instead of tins!!

With Christmas coming soon, we are receiving Advent Calendars to give out; this gives a chocolate treat in many cases but also reminds us all what Christmas is truly about. Last year we have a glut of mince pies - please go easy on these (!!) as they have limited sell-by dates; Christmas Puddings last longer! We do have to limit ourselves to commercial products that are within best-before or sell-by dates; we cannot give your excellent home made jams, unfortunately, nor out of date products.

23rd November 2014 is our second anniversary. Our anniversary service and party is being delayed until 28th January in view of so many other events.


Exmouth Community Larder, mid December report

"Foodbanks" are in the press at the moment. We have always been totally voluntary, all funds in Exmouth go to the purchase of food for The Larder. We do see the need for the Welfare Benefit system to operate with more common sense - for example forcing clients who do not have the money for a bus fare to make repeated visits to Exeter. Government funded foodbanks would create a structure of entitlements and bureaucracy still needing us to care for those that fall through the net.

The Exmouth Larder has no overhead, everything you give goes to food and feeding!

A high proportion of our clients have fallen on bad times due to bad decisions and bad luck which no welfare system could prevent. Our job is to give them a hand up with food and signpost them to more expert agencies for financial and other help. Fuel top-ups were available last winter for clients in trouble, we had a 1,000 grant to do this which was badly needed in the cold weather. We now have limited funding to do the same this winter, but more "fuel" donations are welcomed! We gave a maximum of 10 per fuel but only when requested from the client's support agency and insist on a receipt. Please add the word "fuel" when donating for this; 100% of normal donations is spent only on provisions.

Demand has settled after peaking around New Year with a drop in April. We have no explanation; other local foodbanks saw the same - maybe seasonal jobs, maybe we will see another surge this winter.

Our volunteers continue to come from many churches and non-church backgrounds; our donors also come from the whole community. It is most humbling, reassuring and motivating for us all to be at the centre of such community spirit, so relevant at Christmas. We have just collected umpteen bags of food from an otherwise anonymous young couple with no stated church or other affiliation and added these to a mound waiting be sorted at our base in the Salvation Army hall.

In the story of Christ's birth it is easy to forget that the shepherds, depicted so coloufully in our images, were actually the outcasts of their society living rough. But it was to them that God gave the first news of Jesus' birth to an otherwise homeless couple holed up in a stable. That is how God set the scene......


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