2016 reports from Exmouth Community Larder
Caring is not just for Christmas, it continues all year. As last year we have been overwhelmed with the generosity of you all over the Christmas period, and our clients have certainly enjoyed some festive fayre! There are about 500 tins of beans, 500 of soup plus lots of others in our reserve stock - but all the reserve shelves were bare by June last summer. So THANKS also to those who gave cash, which is a vital help when gaps appear on particular shelves. The need goes on around the year; sometimes it seems repetitive and boring but that is the nature of what we do and the support we value.
At 7pm on Wednesday 20th January we will hold our annual Thanksgiving celebration with a Service in the Salvation Army hall to which all our helpers and supporters are most warmly welcome. This is the middle of Christian Unity week, which is appropriate with the wide variety of churches represented among our volunteers as well as the wide church community's support of The Larder.
On Friday 8th January many of our volunteers gathered for an evening, including Tim and Jo who started it all by providing food from their garage in Brixington, Mike who helped put up the first shelving and another 9 who volunteered from the start in late 2012. It was amazing; we could not have foreseen this 3 years ago when we took the first tentative steps. Our foundation remains the generosity of the community with donations of food, time and skill to help people in need; and a large band of volunteers including Elaine who organised the gathering (and collected the money!)
With our logo of two fish and five loaves we were excited when we reached the feeding of 5,000 in June 2012!! We have now provided the equivalent of well over 60,000 meals. The major concern continues working with agencies to help people get problems sorted out, while providing the essential provisions to keep body and soul together in difficult times. As you know, we do not set any limit on how long help can continue while it is still truly needed.
Fresh fruit and vegetables from Lidl's are now regularly available and very much welcomed by our clients, though we don't know just what we will receive each time!
Co-op Southern are giving another boost to our reserves by donating the final Budgens stock from the store in Brixington before they restart it with Co-op products.
A simple leaflet on basic cooking is badly needed. How to cook rice, how make a meal from pasta simmered in tinned soup - basic ideas from limited simple ingredients - your contributions eagerly awaited ........
Perhaps the most important thing to report is that we continue, just as the need does; if this report is boring, sorry, but that's the way it is!! We are left in no doubt that some people will continue to be disorganised and need help whatever the welfare system, and we take great pleasure in past clients bringing donations once on their feet.
Need and neediness continue. About 950 parcels a year are being given out. This includes repeat visits by people with problems which persist for several weeks or more. There are ups and downs, but we can now see that after 3 full years that the rounded average is fairly steady.
We do NOT set any limit on the number of times a client may come, but we do want to see that they are engaging with a relevant agency to resolve their underlying problem, usually financial.
Fizzy drinks (pop) and crisps well beyond our clients' needs are on the shelves, from the residual stock of Budgens, Brixington, which the Southern Coop donated when they took over. PLEASE let us know if you have any events coming up, or know of any in the Exmouth area, where this excess of pop and crisps would find a good home!! We are currently sorting everything else, so hope to have a proper stock list soon.
Our anniversary service fell in the middle of church unity week on the evening when Exeter City were playing Liverpool ..... we did not plan that well! However, our small gathering did include key people from our founding churches and old friends who had helped get The Larder started. The service was led by Lt Chris with a eulogy from Elaine on volunteering, followed by tea, coffee - and mince pies not quite out of date.
Our current main concerns are persuading some clients to engage with support agencies that can help them - as well as getting the Budgens stock influx sorted!
The amazing positive is how regularly donations arrive and volunteers keep the flow of delivering, sorting and preparing the provisions for clients on which they depend.
The next task is to prepare a simple cookery leaflet; how to produce a wholesome and appetising meal from very cheap and basic ingredients. Clients who cannot afford "boil in the bag" rice ask us how to cook rice .... if they only have a microwave it is even more challenging .... PLEASE HELP .... there must be people who have solved these knotty problems at college, camping, or maybe when using a foodbank!!
For Easter, we will open on Good Friday at 1.30pm as usual but finish at 2.30 sharp to enable a Good Friday Service to start at 3.00pm in the Salvation Army hall. On Easter Monday we will function as normal for a Monday, 2.00-3.30pm.
The request for easy cook recipes has received good support, but potential cooks need to realise the limitations of the non-perishable items that we usually provide!
Provisions handed out just consist of tins of Soup, Beans (or Spaghetti), Tomatoes, Vegetables (carrots, peas or sweetcorn), Potatoes, Meat (may be Chili Con Carne / Chicken Curry / Hot dogs / Meatballs / Corned Beef / Spam), Fish (tuna / sardines), tinned Fruit, Rice Pudding, Custard, with jars of Pasta Sauce, Jam, and Tea bags or coffee, packets of dry Pasta or Rice, Long life Milk, breakfast Cereal and when available Bread, Biscuits, Sugar, Squash.
This places serious limitations on the cooking, further exacerbated when our clients have only a ring, and perhaps that is a primus stove, maybe only a microwave Û.. so it really is "back to basics"!
Lidl's do supply fresh produce but it is very variable, depending what is nearing the end of its selling "shelf life".
However, clients do get back on their feet and to have guidance and experience on how to produce palatable and nutritious meals from minimal cost ingredients is obviously a great help.
Some of us may marvel at younger people grasping mobile phones and modern technology so easily, but can also worry about dependency on pre-prepared meals and the continuing commercial push towards more expensive options in life - albeit which create the jobs in catering which some of our clients seriously need Û..
As Easter brings into focus the Last Supper and events 2,000 years ago, the needs and the problems are still with us, even the details have not changed so much! The Community Larder helps us to return to the old values where disadvantaged people were helped by those better off.
Happy and Holy Easter to you all!
he Co-op in The Magnolia Centre has just established a collection point for donations to The Larder. This is central in Exmouth and open all day, so will be a help to our many generous donors. It is easy to find, just by the exit after the tills.
The new Southern Co-op in Brixington also gave us the residual stock when they took over from Budgens; this generosity has kept us busy.
|It included many items which we do not normally supply from The Larder, so we have been donating these onwards to school and church groups. If you have a bazaar or fete this summer please check what we may have to help stock your stalls!
We have had requests for donor posters : these are now available from our website.
Meanwhile the routine work goes on; it is difficult to write an interesting report which is no more than the same old stuff!! Enough to repeat that the need is with us and the need is real. Anyone who would like a better understanding of what we do is welcome to visit us while we are open!
No doubt there will be challenges ahead; migration and refugees will create more problems - but the message is that there continue to be many people do need help from those of us who have our lives and finances under control!
People ask "what is a typical case". But every story is different.
However, we now see clients getting straight and have the start of an alumni club - people volunteering and helping who were once needy clients!
As always, THANKS to donors and volunteers without whom the work would collapse!
With your support we now have lots and lots of meat dishes, fish, beans and soup!!
However we do need tinned vegetables, tomatoes, fruit, rice pudding, pasta sauces, custard, long life milk and fruit squash. Your generosity has also given us cash, so we are able to fill in gaps by buying what is needed - and no doubt the relative glut and shortages will change around again before long!!
The new collection point in the Co-op in the Magnolia Centre got off to a slow start, but now has regular donations - and may be a convenient drop off point for others as well as Co-op customers!
Client demand has fallen off for the moment, but we still see clients with complex problems needing to be signposted to the relevant support agencies. We recently had a course on the present welfare system to give us a better understanding of what clients can seek and expect from agencies. Demand is very variable - as soon as this report goes out saying demand has fallen off, we will have floods of clients!!
Communication has been key to connecting with agencies and clients; many referrals now come via email. It helps us if agencies can format emails simply listing:
Name and Address with postcode
Numbers of adults and children,
Contact phone (if any)
Agency name and contact person
Û. and whether the client will collect or need delivery.
The postcode and contact phone are important if a delivery is requested.
This is all on the front page of our website .... www.exmouthlarder.co.uk (or Google "exmouth foodbank"). We also like a two line summary of the client's situation.
When a delivery is requested to a client we have not met, it raises a concern that the client is receiving support on financial matters - "no food in the house and no money to buy food" clearly indicates a financial problem! When an agency requests a first time delivery, it eases our concerns if we know whether or not the agency is engaging with the client on budgeting and other fiscal issues.
With many THANKS, as always, to the community for continued support, and to our volunteers drawn from so many different backgrounds who have in common the need to care for other people.
May was extraordinarily quiet, the fewest clients or mouths to feed since our first months. The graph below shows the number plunging below February 2013!!
However the graph shows how demand is extremely variable, so it is much much too early to imagine this is a trend - the first few sessions of June show an increase.
Meanwhile, with support from the whole community, we now have lots and lots of tinned meat dishes, fish, beans, soup and packets of cereal.
However we will soon need more tinned vegetables, tomatoes, fruit, rice pudding, pasta sauces, custard, long life milk and fruit squash. Your generosity has also given us cash, so we are able to fill in gaps by buying what is needed - and no doubt the relative glut and shortages will change around again before long!!
Torquay Christians Together are starting a foodbank operating from the Salvation Army premises, like we are, and visited to see us at work. That will increase support in the Torbay area in addition to Brixham and Paignton. We wish them success, and look forward to any new ideas that may come from them.
With many THANKS, as always, to the community for continued support, and to our volunteers drawn from so many different backgrounds who have in common the need to care for other people.
Demand is nearer its usual levels after the quiet period in May.
We have plenty of Cereal, Beans, Soup, Fish, Meat dishes, Tea and Coffee thanks to generous year round donations - we hope that Harvest Festivals will bring us tins of vegetables, fruit, custard/rice pudding, pasta sauces and squash!
Clients continue to have a wide range of problems, most can be summarised as being disorganised. Politicians and government officials, being somewhat organised, will never imagine the problems people can get into, both short term and long term. Maybe it is how we are all made, needing a certain amount of mutual support from each other!
Tesco gave us a proportion of the food collection they made recently, the balance going to Trussle Trust foodbanks and "Fair Share" with whom Tesco have national agreements. Our share was two heavily loaded hatchbacks which Tesco staff most kindly brought to us.
The collecting basket at the Co-op in the Magnolia Centre had also been filled to the brim; so that same day we used two Co-op trolleys to bring the contents to our stockroom.
The level of detailed organisation whereby we had two trolleys to unload the two Tesco cars was beyond anything planned or prayed about by our mortal volunteers!
On a sad note, Millie Newman, who was one of our first volunteers, died at the age of 83 recently. The photo shows her in a corner of the stockroom, two months after we opened, before better shelving was installed.
Committed volunteers remain at the heart of what we are able to accomplish; this is a good moment to remember many who helped establish how best to work and give thanks for many blessings since November 2012.
We worry that some people take advantage of free food without facing the need to sort their problems out. However, with the help of key agencies such as the CAB, EDDC and Open Door, we generally get clients "on track" after a few weeks - or at least we think we do! The occasional formal complaint about people taking advantage often turns out to be malicious gossip.
We worry more about individuals and families with genuine need who don't reach us. But with referrals from schools, churches and EDDC departments aware of shortfalls in rent or council tax, we hope that The Larder is well enough known. We do not have any limit on how many times people may come for help, but we do insist that they are taking steps to resolve their crisis.
This is YOUR work - the volunteers at The Larder are merely intermediaries between your generosity and actual need in the community, which is another reason to ensure that all our clients are in a genuine "food emergency".
Your generosity has kept us in a good position to respond to people's needs; with all the chaos in the world we have no idea what we may face in a few year's time. As the saying goes, pray for the best but prepare for the worst!
Our actual work continues to fluctuate from too few volunteers with too many clients one session, and many more volunteers than clients the next time. On average, demand is not so very different from last year or the year before. Anyone who is interested in volunteering - or anyone just plain interested - is welcome to visit while we are open and check the quality of the tea and coffee .....!
We have plenty of Cereal, Beans, Soup, Meat dishes, Tea and Coffee thanks to generous year round donations - we hope that Harvest Festivals will bring us tins of vegetables, fish, fruit, custard/rice pudding, pasta sauces, squash and basic toiletries!
Demand continues - very variable from session to session as the graphs show, but the rounded average is steady and a little lower than last year.
Donations and local generosity keep us well stocked.
After earlier comments we are no longer "full of beans!" but donations of all non-perishable foods are welcome!
A reliable core / corps of volunteers continues the essential work. We don't advertise for volunteers, but people come to join us from time to time and others leave when they have other commitments.
All are welcome to come and see how we work when we are open. We represent the community by providing what you have given....!! Come in for a cuppa!!
THANK YOU, EXMOUTH AND SURROUNDS FOR YOUR ENORMOUS SUPPORT!!
Harvest Festivals at schools and churches around the neighbourhood have donated an amazing supply of non-perishable food, which enables us to supply provisions to people in need with confidence. Individual ThankYou cards have gone out to many groups - but those of you who delivered will have seen how overwhelmed we were at times - please let us know if your group has been missed!!
Meanwhile, the work of supplying provisions continues to those who need help.
THANK YOU once again!!
A group of rough sleepers, among the least in society, were chosen to be first to receive "tidings of great joy" from the angel Gabriel at the first Christmas 2016 years ago on the hillside above Bethlehem. No doubt children acting in Nativity plays are better washed and well clothed, but we should remember that God chose the least among society to be the first to receive The News - we can so easily forget that a "manger" is an animal feeding trough pressed into alternative service as a crib!
||It is wonderful to record that the Exmouth area today cares enough about those in trouble to have donated plenty of basic non-perishable food so that we can support those who need help - THANK YOU once again!
Don't let's class people as "more" or "less" fortunate. We routinely see people who were recently doing well, and enjoy seeing previous clients back on their feet!
Our main concern at Christmas is to provide the basics for people in a food emergency rather than special hampers; many seasonal offerings such as mince pies have a limited "best before" date. We adhere to the dates on product, so please don't donate out of date products. The record so far is a jar of mincemeat dated 1998 - with its seal broken!
Christmas opening times will be announced shortly.
It is also a great joy all year, and especially at this festive time, to have such a wonderful circle of unpaid volunteers and supporters - including regular workers who deliver reliably from various collection points, sometimes as invisibly as Santa's Elves! The Monday volunteer team arrive to find a table full of donations waiting to be dated and stored - just like coming down on Christmas morning!
The need continues. After 4 full years of operation, the October points on our usage graphs for all 4 years are very close together. Our users have many different stories; the one thing they have in common is being, or having become, disorganised.
Our final and sincere thanks go to the support workers in many different organisations helping people to find their way through the maze that our modern world has contrived.
So, a Happy Christmas to all around us, remembering that the message for all of us is to continue supporting each other, each of in our different ways.
Larder Report : 4 year update, December 2016
In the four years since The Larder started, 3,500 parcels have been given out, with provisions to serve 6,800 people - of course we have provided food for some people several times over. There is no clear pattern; some people have had very occasional need for our help since we opened, others need us every week for just a few weeks to get on their feet. Demand is very variable from one session to the next, but the rounded average is not so different now from 4 years ago.
We have not seen big changes in demand, despite press stories about problems with the benefits system. The main factor is disorganisation; clients are disorganised, and so is the benefits system which should help them. Each case is so different that set rules don't work; whatever the system, some people will fall through.
Donations have kept up well, running on ahead of our needs, which gives us reserves of tinned food and money. If the present gloomy doom economic forecasts come true, these reserves will be badly needed.
In The Larder we see how much more needs to be done, especially with housing and mental health; but that is for other people and agencies.
We wish a very happy Christmas to all our supporters - in the end we are just the intermediaries between community generosity and people in need. The New Year will undoubtedly bring new challenges - we hope that 2017 will bring all of you, clients, volunteers, donors and support agencies, all you wish for.
Larger versions of the graphs above are available from the website. On the home page: "click here for more recent statistics". The graphs will be updated from time to time so that future trends can be seen in the context of history.
As always, THANK YOU to the whole community whose generosity makes it all possible.
Exmouth Community Larder
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