2019 reports from Exmouth Community Larder
Larder report : 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 response to the problem.
But getting easy food hand-outs does not help people to face their problems. They may need expert help to challenge a ruling after Benefits are curtailed, or help confronting an addiction; there are as many reasons as we have clients!
Of course there are 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 real "food emergency".
No-one should be embarrassed at coming to ask for help; the time to feel embarrassed is failing to give something back when life returns to normal.
A happy New Year to all, with kindness and compassion throughout!
Charity is the greatest of the "three things that last: faith, hope and charity" taken from recent Bible readings in churches using the Lectionary. Charity is often translated better as "love"; both words convey a variety of ideas, but taken together they focus on giving and on caring for others.
In The Larder we certainly rely on our donors care and concern in what is given for people in need. But "HOPE" should not be overlooked. The Open Door Centre, CAB (Citizens' Advice Bureau) and others help to get people to a better footing in life - which gives Hope. In fact we insist that clients do get support for their underlying problems.
EDDC (East Devon District Council) also give very positive help. The EDDC offices in Exmouth Town Hall are open 5 days per week which saves travel 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 also making links with other services. The Exeter Job Centre went live with Universal Credit in September 2018 and there is an EDDC 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 are giving HOPE - possible light at the end of the tunnel for people who are hungry and worrying about how to feed the children.
The Christmas and winter months are always busy so it is too early to say we have an increase in demand, but we are certainly very busy at the moment.
Reports of Anthony's full retirement are premature, management of the Community Larder now falls to a Leadership Team, with Noel as team leader on Monday and Ian on Friday. At the recent annual gathering Anthony received a presentation for his 6 years as manager, but also a hard hat to symbolise the role of Warehouse Manager!
The reality is a hard working team of dedicated volunteers, all working together to make it work; acting as intermediaries between the generosity of the community and the needs of people who are in a hole.
The Mayor was also at the gathering, receiving Larder thanks for the generosity of the community and also expressing appreciation for what The Community Larder does.
The truth is that we are fulfilling different roles, but we are all in it together, giving charity, love and caring to people who badly need hope!
Demand has increased substantially. November, December and January are always busy, but this year February has continued with a very high level of need.
Most noticably the number of people served has jumped, because of more large families in need.
A increased proportion of clients are suffering problems with Benefits, either payment delays, not receiving as much as expected or finding that the Benefit has been swallowed by repaying a loan.
Our 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 benefit problems.
As usual, we also have people with surprise troubles; partners who take the money but leave the children and many other variations!
No-one is going to handle things positively when hungry or with unfed children, so The Larder leaves the issues to the referring agencies and simply supplies provisions - and also tea, coffee and a safe place to discuss the way forward.
Meanwhile, our donors continue to provide as generously as ever - but the need may become more acute.
On details, we have plenty of beans, soup, pasta and tuna.....
.....but tinned meats, tinned vegetables (peas, carrots and sweetcorn), tinned fruit, rice pudding and custard are especially welcome.
There are collection points in many churches, in the Magnolia Centre Co-op, Tesco and elsewhere.
THANKS to you all - as always!
NOTE graph will update to latest info after March 2019!
Larder update and thoughts : mid April 2019
Society has changed. In years gone by, local neighbours would have helped people in trouble; saving for a rainy day was normal. Advertising now encourages us to use credit cards and loans to acquire more and more stuff and so stimulate "the economy". More cars and stuff are good for the economy, but not always for the planet.
Extended borrowing risks a crisis when a steady income is disrupted!
The part that used to be played by neighbours helping within each locality is now played by the whole community, so a big THANK YOU to the whole of the Exmouth area for continuing to support the help which the Exmouth Community Larder is able to pass on.
An increased proportion of the clients referred to The Larder by agencies have Benefit problems, but as always there are people with surprise troubles - a partner who has taken the car and the money 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.
In the week when the Notre Dame in Paris burns down after 850 years, we are all reminded that things which seem permanent can suddenly disappear.
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 even exceeded that! The graph can be found at:- click for link - (which will have been updated to the latest stats)
or follow the links on the website.
Thanks also to the many churches, to Tesco, the Co-op and many others who provide convenient collecting points for donations.
We should also remember the staff in CAB, EDDC, the Open Door Centre and others who work to help disadvantaged people and help them find the path to get back on top.
All our own staffing is by unpaid volunteers; all money donations go directly to the support of clients - mainly to buy items to fill gaps on our shelves.... we do have lots of Beans, Soup, Pasta and Tuna which are always popular donations - but we also need tinned fruit, rice pudding or custard, pasta sauce, long life milk and tinned meat dishes. Everything is dated to keep a good stock rotation, so our reserves are not out of date!
Now in our seventh year, we have a good team of volunteers on Mondays and another good team on Fridays. However, new volunteers are very welcome, otherwise the average age will get older and older....and older....!!
Community Larder update : mid May 2019
The Exmouth Community Larder had 407 client visits in January to April this year, feeding 937 people including family members. February and March had record demand, but April was more "normal". See below to access the current reports on our website. Since we opened 6 years ago we have given out 5,400 parcels - comprising about 75,600 tins plus bread, biscuits, milk and cereals - and we have reserves in stock!
So THANK YOU GREATER EXMOUTH for your generosity to disadvantaged people.
This has been achieved by about 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 for people who need help.
Larder Policy is a "Hand-up not a Hand-out". We help people in a "Food Emergency" with provisions, but expect them to get help with the "Underlying Crisis" that brought them down. Usually clients are referred by an agency that can help them, but if not we signpost them to an agency with professional and trained support staff such as the CAB or Open Door Centre.
People needing food support can come without any referral or voucher. In that case we review their problem and signpost them to a suitable agency, with the condition that 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 the necessary 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, budgeting, debt management advice or other specialist needs, so clients are signposted to the CAB or others who can help with these broader issues.
Sometimes the second most important need is simply to be treated as a person who matters. It is easy to lose self respect when things go so badly wrong as to need charity to get food; but no-one thinks clearly when hungry, so food is still the number one priority. But we do 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. The key is to put something back when we can.... So THANK YOU once again for all those who donate!
Community Larder update : mid June 2019
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 start of the Universal Credit scheme is part of the cause; we now have many referrals where the client has to wait a month before receiving any money. Payment delays leave people who do not have savings destitute before money arrives.
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. The referral voucher simply evidences that the individual is receiving support for their underlying situation.
We have lots of non perishable foods, particularly tinned soups, beans and tuna. When we are short we maintain stocks of other canned foods and long life milk using donated cash. Some fresh vegetables and fruit are kindly donated by The Farm Shop each week; we also have washing powder, shampoo, toiletries, and dog and cat food.
We cannot keep chilled fresh or frozen perishable food as we cannot be sure of its history; this would be contrary to hygiene regulations and commonsense.
As always, 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, but many people are disorganised. It is these we see in the Community Larder - people whose budgeting is just counting how much cash they have in hand. For them adjusting to monthly payments is a big change!
Spending on mental health is now a record, as Sir Hugo Swire reports in the Exmouth Journal - but I am sure he would agree that past spending was too low. We reckon many of our clients would benefit from mental health support, though we do not attempt to keep any records of that.
Education is another issue - schools are measured by high achievers; but the really good teacher is the one who improves the very limited ability and low self esteem of difficult pupils. Many people leave without cooking or budgeting skills; they come to The Larder, unsure of themselves, isolated and hungry, and asking how to cook rice!!
So THANK YOU ALL for helping the Exmouth Community Larder to continue the mission of providing basics to those who are more in need than most of us!!
Larder report : July / summer 2019
Loneliness and isolation are a big problem these days; what can we do about it?
When people come to the Community Larder for food, we can give them food - supported by your generosity, the 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, seriously 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!!
The Larder has people no longer needing food, but seeking to volunteer to join in a companionable organisation; no doubt the same is true for lots of other groups.
There are people we don't see in The Larder who don't need food, but who are also lonely and seeking some companionship. Meanwhile, there are lots of people making money from individuals who need something in their lives - there's drink, betting shops, and all manner of things "on line" - any of which can lead to a financial problem and are most often just an escape from isolation.
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 - why not? My experience is that 80% do appreciate being acknowledged as a thinking person, though a minority really do not want to interact - or not at that time!
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. It is a funny world; we have clients in bad situations who nevertheless provide support for others who just 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 of friends 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?
Community Larder update : August - summer 2019
Client demand has been busy, as it was last year in July. Friday 16th August was a record - maybe demand is growing, as it did for three months in the spring.
We now have an extra room in the Salvation Army hall which gives much more space for sorting donations - especially with the Harvest Festival surge which we hope for in the next month.
For Harvest Festival gifts, we already have lots of soup, beans and tuna, but are always running short of jam, pasta sauces, basic tinned vegetables (peas, carrots and sweetcorn) and of rice pudding, custard and tinned fruit. However, those of you who donate cash enable us to fill those gaps with economic purchasing. The new sorting room enables us to buy and store larger quantities.
The Community continues to support us amazingly. The cast of "Broadway Babes 2" at the Blackmore Theatre are giving their time, energy and creativity totally free, together with their staff and the theatre itself - all proceeds come to the Exmouth Community Larder; SpecSavers had a donation point during July and early August; the Farm Shop continues to give us a fresh fruit and produce every Friday.
The main donors continue to be the very many people donating through churches throughout the area from Lympstone, Woodbury, both Budleighs and out to Otterton as well as collection points in Tesco, the Magnolia Co-op and elsewhere.
Also THANKS to many donors and donation activities not mentioned - let us know!!
Brexit turmoil will be sure to bring shortages, probably due to panic buying triggered by news alarms! The new sorting room enables us to keep a larger broad based stock, so we expect to keep supplying people in need, whatever the whether.....!
Meanwhile, Faye Brophy, our new Salvation Army leader, is starting a "back to school" supplies drive. For more information
Click here (where Faye's email and phone number are given). As at the start of The Larder, progress will depend on the ideas and energy of people - the problems of needy families do go beyond the food which The Community Larder is set up to provide.
With your continued help and support, The Larder is well placed to face a turbulent autumn and winter - and happy to continue as calmly as we can!!
MANY THANKS to all our donors, wellwishers and volunteers as always!
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