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2015 reports from Exmouth Community Larder


Exmouth Community Larder, New Year 2015

We kept open over Christmas and New Year giving out 43 packages with food for 117 people in the Monday and Friday fo Christmas week and New Year week! This endorsed our decision to stay open, thanks to the volunteers that made this possible.

The year started with a big influx of food via SpecSavers and Open Door in addition to the usual church and community donations which keep us going year round.

Once again statistics show a big increase in demand in December, continuing into early January. Fuel top-ups are now available, with strong initial demand. However, clients will need to remember we have a limit of three 10 top-ups per winter! Maybe the initial surge is due to other agencies still gearing up after the holiday!

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This January we celebrate two full years of availablility - last year's graph is below.

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At 6.30 pm on Wednesday 28th January all our supporters are welcome to join us in the Salvation Army hall. A Service of Thanksgiving wiil start at 7pm, preceded by tea, coffee, biscuits and the chance meet and mingle in fellowship. We hope to meet as many of you as possible.

Happy New Year to you all.
Exmouth Community Larder


Exmouth Community Larder, February 2015

People need to engage, as the politicians reviewing the Welfare System remind us. The most important to us, and for which we give thanks, is the way in which the whole community of Exmouth and surrounding area have engaged with the need to support needy members of society by giving supplies, money and also time as volunteers.

However well "the System" is organised nationally, there will always be people falling through the net due to bad decisions and bad luck; our task is to be available.

We do our best to assess clients, mainly by requiring a referral from an agency, and we urge clients into engaging with the support that can help them out of their problem. We rarely decline provisions, but it has happened - for example, a client who persisted in spending money on alcohol instead of food.

An experienced worker from the Citizens Advice Bureau is often with us, for which we are most grateful to the CAB and their funding supporters.

We would be foolish to think that one or two people looking for an easy handout don't get through - in fact a story reached us about a family boasting they had cheated the Salvation Army out of food. In reality they had cheated their own local community, churches, schools, Exmouth Rotary and many others who so splendidly donate. These stories keep us vigilant.

In 2014 we gave out nearly 1,000 packages; food for nearly 2,000 people including partners and children. We recorded 279 individuals and families needing help, which is about 0.5% of the population in our area, which includes people in Lympstone, Woodbury, Budleigh Salterton, East Budleigh and Otterton.

On 28th January we held a Thanksgiving Service which focussed on the volunteer help which keeps The Larder running. Attendance was not huge but there was a broad representation, including the Mayor, and we received a most welcome donation of 2,000 from Exmouth Rotary from their collection over Christmas.

Meanwhile, your routine donations continue to arrive..... the need is still there ..... ..... we continue .....!!

Anthony Bernard
Exmouth Community Larder


Exmouth Community Larder, Mid March 2015

Now in our third year, a pattern begins to emerge!

As last year, we will open on Good Friday (3rd April) at 1.30pm as usual. This will be followed by a Service at 3pm in the Salvation Army hall to which everyone is welcome especially Larder supporters, volunteers and clients past and present.

On Easter Monday we will be closed, but open instead on the Tuesday (7th April).

December and January were about 50% above average, but February returned to the usual level of demand - again, like last year! A majority of February clients have been to us three times or less, but about 20% have become rather regular, with 10 visits or more. We have never set a limit on the number of times a client can receive help.

We are not ourselves a support agency but clearly need to help clients and their supporting agencies sort out their underlying financial problems. To this end we are meeting with the key support agencies to improve our "joined-up" approach.

Some of our frequent clients have problems that are clearly understandable; we know that our donors would expect us to continue helping them so we are not planning a change of policy, but we do need to improve the help available. Some clients who needed us in 2013 did not come at all in 2014 but now we are seeing them again.

The generous help with donations from the community does enable us continue as we are, but we also worry about facing much bigger problems later in the year when the benefit system changes to "Universal Credits". For those of us who are organised, including politicians, it all probably makes sense. But people who are disorganised and disadvanted will struggle; we need to have help in place. The people we are seeing are facing the final desperation of having no food. Our clients are those least able to deal with complex and tricky situations particularly now more and more applications have to be made "on line".

Three of our volunteers have been attending courses on the issues and we continue to have an experienced CAB staffer frequently with us which is a great help. Budgeting is a primary issue, coupled with the need to persuade people to engage with those that could help them.

Thinking beyond the remit of The Larder, some basic cooking skills would also help many clients - maybe cookery designed around the basic provisons we supply.

So there is need for people ready to provide patient commonsense budgeting and also simple cookery lessons .. not Larder business, but all to help the same people! . don't all volunteer at once !!

Happy Easter to you all!
Anthony Bernard
Exmouth Community Larder


Exmouth Community Larder, Mid April 2015

Client usage in the first three months of 2015 was 15% down on the same period last year but The Larder is still very much needed; there continues to be a big variation week to week so statistics do not really show a trend.

Opening Good Friday and the Tuesday after Easter was worthwhile. Our clients were very grateful to those who gave Easter treats in one chocolate form or another, especially some of the larger families among our clients. THANK YOU!

In future we will open on Bank Holiday Mondays instead of the following day as this works more easily for our volunteers, many of whom have things to do on Tuesdays!

Our meeting with key support agencies produced an immediate consensus that we should firmly guide clients with financial problems (which most of them have, one way or another) to support agencies with the appropriate specialisation.

Donations have tailed off as they did this time last year, so we are once again using your cash donations to buy food to stock the shelves. We now know where to buy the basics at rock bottom prices, so for those of you who kindly give cash it is probably as efficient as hauling tins around!!

The fuel top-up programme helped many of our clients in the winter. Thank you to those who allowed us to use their donations for fuel top-ups. Spring has come, so we will only give fuel-top up for cooking, either gas or electric depending which the cooker uses, and as before only when the referring agency specifically requests it.

With the election coming up it is good to report that one candidate, Hugo Swire, spent an hour or more in The Larder reviewing what we do and how it works including some time with individual clients. We should make sure to keep issues that affect us generally and specific difficult cases in front of our MP after the election decision. Whatever the outcome nationally, however the welfare system is relaxed or rejigged, it is clear from our present client experience that there will still to be people who fall through whatever net is in place and will continue to need our support.

Apologies if this bulletin is boring!! The truth is that the work of The Exmouth Community Larder is as repetitive as it is necessary! So a big thank-you to all the volunteers who plug away week after week, to all our donors who keep us going and to all those who stop by for a chat to encourage us!! We are also grateful to past clients who have become donors or volunteers which adds a big boost to our ways of working and understanding the problems we are helping clients to face.

Anthony Bernard
Exmouth Community Larder


Exmouth Community Larder, May 2015

The costs of Trussel Trust foodbanks have been in the news. The Exmouth Community Larder is independent and does not pay Trussel Trust.

ALL the cash you donate goes into buying food for clients. A contribution to the upkeep of the Salvation Army hall comes out of funds given to us specifically for general purposes; cash for client fuel top-ups comes from donations which specifically allow for that. All our "workers" are free volunteers, including delivery drivers who fund their own petrol and running costs. All normal money donations go on buying food and nothing else.

Politics have also been in the news!

Hugo Swire spent about two hours in The Larder which gave us an opportunity to show what we do and why we are needed. His time was much appreciated, though it did expose some gaps in thinking between the perceptions of a government minister and the part of the world we support. Now he has been re-elected we will make it our business to keep him acquainted with the issues - in particular the advent of "universal credits" which can cause added problems to people not budgeting well.

Meanwhile, we continue as ever! Client usage is very variable, but generally consistent with last year. Donations are also variable, but keeping abreast of demand. THANK YOU for your continued support.

Volunteer numbers fluctuate during the summer. Somehow we seem to work quite well even on days when we are short of volunteers and have lots of clients - in which case we find some clients helping us along as well. Quieter periods give a chance for some volunteers to leave early, others to join in broad based discussions - conversation rarely falls quiet with our very wide variation of different church and other backgrounds.

If you are looking for an interesting and worthwhile couple of hours on a Monday or Friday afternoon, please come and visit us. If we are very busy you will be most welcome and pressed into service. If we are not so pressured someone will surely have put the kettle on!! Our open hours are 2.00-3.30pm on Mondays, 1.30-3pm on Fridays, with volunteers arriving 20 minutes or so early.

We now open on Bank Holiday Mondays instead of the following day. This works more easily for our volunteers, many of whom have things to do on Tuesdays!

Anthony Bernard
Exmouth Community Larder


Exmouth Community Larder, June 2015

May 2015 was an interesting month for The Larder!

No clients at all came on one session; another time we were very short of volunteers and had a near record client attendance!

A German visitor came telling us she is part of a foodbank in a small Bavarian town with a population of 14,000 where they serve over 100 people a week. Their clients' needs are confirmed in a nearby larger town. The German word "Tafel" (meaning table) is used by foodbanks there - go to www.tafel.de if your German is good enough! She told us their main food supplies come from big retailers such as Lidl. It seems that the need to look after our neighbours is widespread in our affluent world!

A young Dutch researcher also came to check us out; she had been in Africa and observed everyone in a small village rallying round to help people in need. Perhaps foodbanks are the start of a return to the old days when people took a supportive interest in their village, their street or their neighbourhood; that could be a good discussion point around a well stocked table ....!

The graph shows the actual usage in the two and half years since we started in Exmouth, where we support a population of about 40,000.

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Demand, on average, has levelled out at around 80 clients needing food for 150 people every month, with a surge in the winter.

So, THANK YOU all of Exmouth - churches, social groups, and communities alike, for your generosity towards our neighbours by keeping us adequately stocked.

Anthony Bernard
Exmouth Community Larder


Exmouth Community Larder, mid July 2015

In our two years we have steadily paid more attention to our clients' underlying needs. A food emergency (no food and no money to buy food) can arise from many circumstances, but the way forward depends on bringing income and expenditure into balance.

We require clients to have a referral voucher from a support agency; if a client arrives without one, we probably will give supplies, but make it clear there will be no further provisions without a voucher from the agency our assessment team stipulates. It is rare for us to turn people away without food, but it has happened!

The CAB (Citizens Advice Bureau), the Open Door Centre and EDDC (East Devon District Council) are primary referrers who provide support on welfare benefits, budgeting and debt relief or can signpost to a suitable agency. The CAB and Open Door Centre do an excellent job - it is worth adding that EDDC welfare and benefits department and housing department are sensible, professional and compassionate towards people in trouble - absolutely not the bureaucrats one might expect!

We are fortunate to have several volunteers with very relevant past experience, and two with specific current CAB training, so our "welcome and assessment" desk is well and competently staffed. A small but significant number of clients are referred by health care agencies - these are always valid referrals which we treat responsively, but we also try to have the client engage with an agency that can help with financial matters. The game of snakes and ladders comes to mind - there are many "snakes" down which people can slip into a food emergency, but for the long term solution they need to find a "ladder" to climb out of the hole!

The CAB has been especially helpful in providing a very experienced and capable key worker who joins our welcome desk when she can.

In The Larder we absolutely do not wish to become a support agency, but we have come to realise that when everything else has gone wrong, people run out of food. So we feel the need to help people find the way back up.

As always, THANK YOU EXMOUTH and surrounds - Lympstone, Exton, Budleigh Salterton, East Budleigh, Otterton and around - for your support. We do our best to help people as you would like us to!

Anthony Bernard
Exmouth Community Larder


Exmouth Community Larder, mid August 2015

Harvest Festivals are coming soon, and we urgently look forward to that!! We need a big boost to our donations!!

Food donations have fallen off, as they did last summer, but our cash reserves are enabling us to maintain stocks - THANK YOU to those who give by standing order!

July 2015 had a record demand for a summer month; 109 clients arriving, many with larger families, so 219 mouths to feed, more than ever before in the summer since we started. There is no clear pattern, every client has problems to be addressed, and the need to feed themselves and the family while getting sorted out.

July saw another record .... a small but larger than usual number of people to whom we declined to give food following their failure to act on signposting and advice given previously. We are not simply providing an easy hand-out; we provide a hand-up, and continue to supply clients supported by our key referral agencies - which is what we believe our donors and supporters expect of us.

A report recently stated that most people are only two payslips away from crisis; we see lots of clients who would never have expected to need a "foodbank" and who do intend to put something back once on their feet. We even have a few clients who help as valued volunteers when we are short!

We remain fortunate to have well experienced and patient volunteers on our welcome and assessment desk, often augmented by a CAB staffer. Patience is often tested by the "welfare" system itself which seems to insist on time consuming form filling before providing help. For example, a couple that had split up came together again, which is good, but all their benefits were stopped while re-assessing their situation which may take weeks; this does NOT feed the children (or the adults).

While the politics of the welfare and benefits system are being debated, the main problem on the ground seems to be the need for prompt and practical implementation of whatever rules are currently in force! This is set to become worse, new rules soon come into force which will present new problems. The one thing most of our clients have in common is that they are disorganised, for whatever reason, and not good at coping with systems that need a clear and organised mind.

Anyway .... THANKS, as always, for the support of all in the local communities who enable us to fill a much needed gap in the social fabric of Exmouth and its surrounds; thanks to our donors, thanks to many who bring food from local churches and collection centres ... and of course thanks to our own regular volunteer staff.

Anthony Bernard
Exmouth Community Larder


Exmouth Community Larder, August anecdotes, Sept 2015

A gent came into The Larder with a big bag of tinned groceries. We partly recognised each other : he had been a client a year or so ago, but was now back on his feet and came to return the favour. He has a job in catering once again, but not at a senior level. "Cooking is now just microwave and ping" he said .... "It doesn't pay as well, but a job is a job .... ". Not the first previous client to bring food in, and we hope not the last. It is good to see the people we help back on their feet.

An Iceland lorry came into the yard, frustrated by parked cars the driver blew a loud horn blast outside our open door. After getting his truck parked he came across to The Larder and we got into a friendly conversation about foodbanks and the need for them. He told me he had a regular job which pays well, but a little while back he himself had been off work for five weeks after a sports injury and had been in crisis. As commented recently, many people are only two payslips from a crisis!

Demand in August was large once again, measured by the number of people for whom we provide food. The graph below shows big variations, but the monthly average is fairly steady at about 170 people, with peaks around Christmas and New Year.

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Food donations are increasing again, thanks for that - and THANKS for those who give us cash so we can fill the gaps with low price purchases!

More news at: www.exmouthlarder.co.uk/news

Exmouth Community Larder


Exmouth Community Larder, October 2015

.... sorry - there was no report October 2015!!


Exmouth Community Larder : Thanksgiving, November 2015

Thank you to all who keep The Larder running. Three years ago when it started we wouldn't have dared to think how well it would be supported - volunteers to work Monday and Friday afternoons, donations first from churches and now from the whole community, volunteers regularly ferrying donations, agencies advising and guiding us to help people in need.

The need has settled to a regular stream, surprisingly consistent since individual needs are changing all the time. Demand has been light for a few weeks, with a large number of first time callers. The message is always not to be shy of asking for help; a client should only feel awkward or embarrassed if they fail to support others in need once re-established on their own feet.

Graph of results, November 2012 to October 2015

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Graphs are boring, but do tell the story of what we do!! A peak at Christmas and New Year, but otherwise a fairly steady average over 3 years!

We wonder what happened before The Larder started; the need is real and will continue whatever the national Welfare system. Maybe The Larder and other foodbanks are beginning a return to the old pattern where more affluent people help and support those in trouble.

Generosity over the Harvest Festivals and with Christmas coming has been overwhelming - from churches, schools and businesses. THANK YOU on behalf of all the clients who need real help, and who also need to feel that other people care about them. It is easy to get depressed when you're hungry!!

Lidl has started passing us their less fresh fruit and vegetables as part of a general arrangement with the Salvation Army - which will also help to reduce how much is thrown out. It is early days; we'll see how it works. Tesco are holding a foodbank drive in early December.

However, it is the generous donations direct from the whole community of Exmouth and surrounds that are giving the lifeline to people in a food emergency, especially from anonymous individuals whose generosity is quite surprising.


Exmouth Community Larder : Christmas 2015

Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ who admonishes us to take care of our neighbours, which we endeavour to do all 52 weeks of the year. This Christmas we will be open on Christmas Eve, Thursday, from 11.00-12.30pm which seems better than Christmas Day itself, when there are no buses and everything stops, except the Open Door Centre with its Christmas lunch! Similarly, we will open 11.00-12.30 in the morning of Thursday, New Year's Eve. On the Mondays after, 28th Dec and 4th Jan, we will be open 2.00-3.30pm as usual.

Tesco recently held 3 days collecting for foodbanks. This year our local Exmouth Community Larder was included after energetic lobbying within Tesco Exmouth. Two thirds went nationally to Fair Share and the Trussell Trust as before, but one large trolley with 16 Tesco trays came to us - THANK YOU to the Tesco staff and customers who did this. It was also a chance for some of our volunteers to meet people and discuss how we work.

Lidl now have an agreement that fresh produce and bakery goods nearing the end of their time on display can be donated to the Salvation Army. This enables us to add fresh vegetables and fruit to provisions we give out. The next step is to find or produce a suitable cookbook to answer very basic questions, even how to cook rice! The world has come to rely on boil-in-the-bag rice and ready meals instead of cooking directly from inexpensive fresh ingredients!!

Our main support continues to be all of you in the community, churches, non-church organisations and individuals. THANK YOU. This is always the time of year when most donations arrive, both tinned goods and cash which we use to keep the shelves stocked when the tins run out!

7pm on 20th January is a date for your diaries. We will hold a Thanksgiving service and gathering in the Salvation Army hall at the end of our third full year of operation. This falls in the week of prayer for Christian unity, so it seems appropriate to celebrate people from so many different churches and from no church at all uniting to support our neighbours. My father brought me up on the saying "action is the only prayer that's answered".

Meanwhile, we continue ...... demand in the last few sessions has risen; people still need to be signposted to agencies; agencies work hard to help people; volunteers continue to be very capable and dedicated to helping others; very occasionally "help" takes the form of refusing provisions to people who could work things out better ...... we continue!!

HAPPY CHRISTMAS
From all of us at The Larder


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