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2020 reports from Exmouth Community Larder

Note that usage graphs will update to the latest update,
regardless of the text they were set to illustrate!


Community Larder report : January 2020

2019 was a record year. 28% more parcels were given out; 41% more people needed to be fed, an increase in the proportion of families and dependents over the previous average - after the rounded average of previous years had been about the same!!
So THANK YOU once again to the greater Exmouth community for increased donations which have enabled us to continue and maintain reserves. Churches and non-church alike, Lympstone, Woodbury, both Budleighs and Otterton as well as Exmouth itself, thanks to all of you the Community Larder faces 2020 in good shape.

The Salvation Army finally gave us more space in the summer; with the surge in donations we could not have managed without it this autumn and Christmas, and also thanks to the volunteer team keeping abreast of events, and also welcome to the new members!!

The reason for the increased need is unclear; it is easy to blame "Universal Credit" which has become a quick answer to cover all sorts of problems. The delay in Universal Credit really is a serious problem, but there are also troubles caused by drink, drugs, gambling, bad budgeting, mental health and abusive relationships!

The Larder gives a "hand up" not a "hand-out", so we try hard to verify that people coming to us are receiving support and taking steps to get out of the hole they are in. In 2020 we will strengthen our connection with the agencies which do provide support, and lobby our new MP about Mental Health, gambling and the problems in U/C.

Once again, THANK YOU for supporting The Larder - we are just getting YOUR generosity out to the folk who really need it !


Community Larder report : mid February 2020

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". We are therefore re-affirming the policy we set back in 2012 - that we should give "a Hand-up, not a Hand-out".

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

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

THANK YOU for the continuing generous level of donations from the community; we continue to be well supplied! However, we are aware of the responsibility to our donors to use this to give needy people a "hand-up", not just an easy "hand-out!!

Our policy has not changed, contrary to some rumours that have been circulating. The report from our first open meeting in November 2012 (available on our website) stated: "We realise that a short term Food Emergency is generally the result of a deeper underlying crisis, so a support agency needs to address that crisis while we in the Exmouth Larder support the immediate food emergency."

In January, demand continues to be strong with 143 parcels given out to feed 264 people, somewhat up on January 2019 which was itself a record year. February so far has continued to be busy. So THANKS to all our hard working and reliable volunteers, committed to make this work and to help others in the community. It is good to report a wide diversity of churches and non church beliefs; a really good mix from all parts of the community, some of whom have experienced problems themselves.

Our relationship with the Salvation Army is being worked out and seems headed to a long term relationship within which the Exmouth Community Larder retains its identity, while retaining the use of the S.A. building and facilities which have been so helpful in our development and for which we continue to be grateful.

There is also a plan to change the name to "Exmouth Foodbank" which describes what we do better than "Exmouth Community Larder", and also to update our logo.
More on that as it happens; we are open to comments!!


Community Larder report : Coronavirus update March 2020

With Coronavirus shortly upon us, the Community Larder plans to continue as close to normal as possible. We do have enough reserves, including the pasta and tins highlighted in "panic buying" reports - but please keep donations coming!! We may have to reduce to basics, but there are people in the world much worse off!

We remind churches and GP practices that they can refer people by email to "help@exmouthlarder.co.uk" using "self-isolation" as the reason for the referral. Those who can afford it will most likely become generous donors in due course!! (www.exmouthlarder.co.uk home page has referral details)

Otherwise, we will respond to referrals as usual and maintain deliveries where badly needed as and when we can. This will include people who have "self-isolated".

Since we operate on Mondays and Fridays, we will keep these two teams separated so that an instance of a team being asked to "self-isolate" for 7/10 days will not close us down - though we may only have a skeleton staff for a week or two.

More worrying would be a government demand that everyone over 70 stay at home. This would hit us hard as we have a high proportion of volunteers who are fit enough, but over 70, including our delivery drivers.

If shops and gathering points are to be closed we would categorise The Larder as a food provider. We might have to alter our times to avoid too many people at once - but making everyone cluster into a queue outside would not seem to help much.

Our Christian friends tell us that The Lord has a plan, but it would be nice if a prophet could fill in some of the detail ........ or maybe it is up to us to work it out!

The Larder will press on as positively as we can, with our strong experience of support from the whole community - meaning the WHOLE community, Churches, non-church people, social organisations, and businesses including at least one Asian restaurant run by Moslems. We are all people; we are all in this together!

As we worry about ourselves, let's also remember there are many people in serious trouble due to ill health, nothing to do with this virus; also there are those who are prone to severe anxiety - these are indeed anxious times.

My father told the story of someone in an urgent situation who was told "you don't worry enough", to which he replied "you worry, and see if it gets done any quicker".


Community Larder report : April 2020 - CoronaCrisis!

The Coronavirus has changed all our lives; the workings of the Community Larder are no exception. The Salvation Army hall has been re-arranged to allow a small team to keep well distanced while sorting food and organising deliveries.

Many of our long standing volunteers have had to step back due to age or underlying medical conditions, including close relatives of some younger members of the team. Meanwhile, publicity has generated no less than 70 new volunteer applications, including many offering to act as delivery drivers.

To maintain safe working distances, Monday and Fridays have been rearranged so that a morning team, without any visitors present, can sort donations coming in and prepare packages for delivery, with a skeleton team at the usual time to help anyone arriving to collect food. We now push everyone to receive a delivery, but of course there are always a few who have no firm address, so they have to collect.

The Larder is now providing food to anyone who needs it, on the basis that those who are isolating or "shielding" and would normally buy their own, will be generous donors when all this is over!! Demand has obviously increased dramatically!

To cope with the extra demand, we have a session on Wednesdays, sorting food and preparing deliveries for a team of delivery drivers. If the need grows, this is a pattern that can be repeated on other days and times to keep abreast of the need!!

Donations of cash are coming from everywhere - we had one donor in London, who lived in Exmouth years ago, knows foodbanks are short and sent a bank transfer!

Now that panic buying is over, we are mostly able to convert money donations into supplies, and the usual donation boxes in various stores are once again being filled. Of course we miss the many church collection points, but they have become cash donors. We started the crisis with really good reserves - tinned soup, beans, meat and of course cash; and hope they will be replenished when we are back to normal!

We have been supplying about 50 packages a week, mostly delivered, feeding maybe 100 people - but this will surely increase significantly as the crisis continues.

The generosity of donations and people offering to volunteer is very humbling. Our next task is to have more of our new volunteers so well trained on the job that we can to expand and maybe fill gaps if any of the present team need to "isolate"

THANKS TO EVERYONE FOR NOT ONLY KEEPING THE LARDER GOING, BUT MAKING IT FIT FOR PURPOSE IN A VERY DIFFERENT NEW WORLD!!

We are not measured by the problem, but how we rise to solve it!!!


Larder report : May 2020 - Covid19 gets serious!

April demand was three times greater than any previous April; the first half of May is even busier. The good news is that donations of food and cash have also increased hugely so that our "reserves" have not been tapped into - yet!!

More than 80 people have offered to volunteer, either sorting and packing or delivering. This has enabled several teams to be put in place which are able to keep abreast of demand while self-distancing, even though the need has switched almost entirely to delivery - the only complaint is from would-be volunteers who have not (yet) been called upon ..... I am sure their time will come!!

The "old guard" - the volunteers who worked in The Larder for years but retired due to age or health problems - have played an absolutely vital part, creating a culture and a simple but effective way of working. Things are much changed to work with "social distancing" but the essential steps in the chain are the same.

Great credit is due to Ian Margeson, previously Friday team leader, and to Shirley Newcombe, previously deputy Monday team leader, for bringing the present teams together. Andrew Cutler, our Exmouth Salvation Army mission manager, has also played a key part in allowing and organising a very different use of the hall, including key control points for hand sanitization etc.

The future is 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, and the heavy demand on all foodbanks will continue. One cannot imagine social distancing ceasing to be an issue until there is a reliable vaccine or curative remedies for the virus; these will only be trusted when they have been tested over a period of time, maybe years!

So we are surely facing a brave new world in which The Exmouth Community Larder will never return to its old way of working. We all remember the bottleneck of volunteers rushing to and from the stockroom and the crowd waiting for packages to be organised - that won't work with social distancing!!

We do miss the old friendship and comradeship, but that must wait until social gatherings restart - which is also true for all churches and clubs!!

Meanwhile, great thanks go to the current team of mainly new volunteers who are keeping The Exmouth Community Larder going, and thanks to the donors who give them the supplies, working together to provide food to those who are in need, whatever the cause!

More details on the website, just updated (15th May 2020) with some pictures!


Larder report : June 2020 - The new normal!

May slightly exceeded April, about 225 parcels in the month serving 475 people, all being delivered; this seems to have become the "new normal".

Our standard food package would cost 16 per person to buy, so 475 people fed is the equivalent of 7,600 per month. Our expanded volunteer and delivery staff do NOT cost about 6,000 per month - because no-one expects to get paid, even for petrol mileage. The Exmouth Community Larder has become a significant enterprise!!

Donations are fortunately more than matching the demand. In May we only needed to spend 1,000 filling gaps on the shelves; mostly the supplies we needed came in from many different sources, Rivermead Post Office, Strand pub, Gig rowing club, the Rugby club, collection points in Tesco and several Co-op stores and a great variety of other collections, often successors to previous church collections.

Covid19 has made big changes to our way of working. We quarantine food donations for 72 hours after arrival - we are told the virus does not persist on any surface longer than that. We have small shifts who work well spaced out sorting deliveries and preparing packages. Delivery drivers minimise personal contacts when their vehicles are loaded and when making deliveries. The working stock is now on tables around the walls of the hall, giving easy access without crowding.

Cash, cheques and BACS donations are also flowing in wonderfully well. Increased demand was more than matched by cash and food donations in May. We use the Salvation Army bank and accounting system, so do not have prompt awareness of generous BACS receipts, so are a little tardy thanking people for them. Sorry!!

Foodbanks will continue to have an important role as this crisis rumbles on. The news now is about declining infections and ending the "lockdown", but the furlough scheme will end, jobs will be lost and whatever the "benefit" system there will be gaps that people fall through, especially those without internet.

Activists are enjoying pulling down statues, but they are missing the many people trapped today in difficult situations by disability, mental health problems, gambling debts, drink and drugs, as well as substandard accommodation or homelessness. There is much work to be done. People being trapped is wrong but not always simple to solve; pulling own statues does not help today's discriminatory problems!

Meanwhile, The Exmouth Community Larder does what it can to give food help to those within our own range of vision and reach -
- all driven by YOUR GENEROSITY!!


Larder report : July 2020 - looking ahead

In April, May and June demand on the Exmouth Community Larder has been 2.8 times the previous year. Supplies valued at 21,000 were delivered, based on costing the packages we give out at the best prices we could buy. The graph shows this huge increase.

Donations of food have provided 80% of that need; cash donations have more than made up the difference, adding to our reserves. Because of this we have not applied for any special grants.

Our greatly expanded volunteer staff are paid nothing, but with the many shifts they could cost up to 15,000 over the 3 months if paid at minimum rates - so the credit should go to our volunteers as well as to our donors!

Looking ahead, the end of "Shielding", the phased end of "Furloughing" and likely growth in "Universal Credit" can create a frightening increase in the scale of the problem.
graph of usage, up to July 2020

Universal Credit usually leaves claimants with five weeks of nothing, followed by an income far below previous expectations without relieving the monthly expense of long term contracts and debts.

The Larder currently has many small shifts to spread the load and keep workers well distanced; there are lots of people who offered to volunteer but have not yet been called into active service. So the expectation is that more people, more shifts and maybe more people working per shift as the 2m distance rule is relaxed, will enable The Larder to rise even to a massive challenge. However, this does depend on food and cash donations coming in at their present level or increasing!

We rely absolutely on the support of the whole community of Exmouth and surrounds ......... Exmouth, Lympstone, Exton, both Woodburys, both Budleighs and Otterton and places in between, from where donations come and where we currently deliver. We even have some donations from ex-Exmouthians, now moved away!

If that support slows down or dries up, we would need substantial help - the total need is now valued at more than 7,000 per month, as outlined above, and will very likely increase. So we are MOST GRATEFUL TO THE WHOLE COMMUNITY!!!!

T H A N K Y O U !!!!


Larder report : People helping people, August 2020

Volunteer effort and energy have been at the centre of the Community Larder since its start in 2012; the voluntary support that people are giving to other people during this Covid19 crisis is especially remarkable.

Demand continues nearly three times the previous level. During August, the Open Door Centre closed, the government shielding food scheme ended, growing unemployment throws more people at the mercy of an overworked Universal Credit system, the County Council asks which volunteer groups are closing down!! Be assured, we absolutely continue!! .... and anticipate being even more needed ....!!

Volunteers are the heart of what we do - using the word "heart" in both senses! At the beginning of lockdown, 20 of our regular volunteers had to isolate,
Larder with Covid19 spacing
but we now have 36 volunteers, 16 sorting and packing, 18 delivery drivers, with Ian and Shirley maintaining continuity in The Larder style of working. A further 15 volunteers have worked with us, but retired as their jobs have come back - plus a substantial reserve pool of people who have offered help which we have not called upon - YET !
Larder with Covid19 spacing Donations were the focus of the June report, but our volunteers working for free have enabled us to accumulate a cash reserve - if we paid key staff, like many groups and some foodbanks, our cash would have been quickly swallowed up! This is a tribute to those of our volunteers from the start, who not only helped evolve a way of working, but did so without even petrol costs for deliveries.

It is easy in reports to miss the obvious - the general caring and compassion for other people from the whole group, past and present, makes it successful - but more than that, makes working for The Larder a worthwhile and enjoyable experience.

The Larder has always been an open society, with people of all convictions - or no convictions - all working for the good of other people for free. This report focuses on volunteers, but we need donations to keep coming - and the Salvation Army to maintain the hall - and Andrew of the S.A. to continue working as hard as any of us!

As always a big T H A N K Y O U to the whole community; it is our task to do the best we can with what we have, but that depends on what the community gives!!


September 2020 - going forward!

Demand continues to be high, since April numbers have been every month more than twice the same period last year, though not as extreme as in April and May.

Heading back towards "normal", we will soon start referring those that need more help to Citizens Advice or to EDDC departments which already refer many people to us. This will take us back to our policy of providing food help in the context of support for the underlying crisis. We have always helped any "food emergency", but the "underlying crisis" needs support as well to help people move forward.

There can be no doubt that the food bank crisis will continue, maybe driven more by people relying on Universal Credit having lost good jobs than by the virus itself. We are already seeing people needing food help due to pressures from other expenses.

Normal now is "what we got", most certainly not what we want! The virus is around to stay; a vaccine will suppress it, but how long must a vaccine be used before we know it is effective? So we have to adapt in The Larder, as everywhere else. Deliveries will continue to be the norm. "Social distancing" prevents us having people come to collect, except a few in special conditions such as homelessness.

Fortunately, the Exmouth Community Larder now has a long term future in the Sheppards Row hall following an agreement with the Salvation Army, including the availability of more space. This was discussed and agreed before the virus struck, but has been especially vital in the urgency of the pandemic.

The pandemic has also been a trigger for some of the new volunteers to be conscripted on to the Committee, following the principle that the Leadership Team should be people working on the front line. Those from the old Leadership Team over the magic age of 70 form the Larder Advisory Group .... old LAGs? All of which works well for the future - new ideas balanced by our established values.

Harvest Festivals will be different this year, but various collections are taking place so we hope for the usual flood of donations. We are overstocked on Pasta and Rice and have plenty of porridge and other cereals, but the mountains of soup and beans are not as high as usual - so any and all tinned foods are very welcome.

T H A N K S to all of Exmouth and surrounds we continue to be well stocked, and a special T H A N K S to our Salvation Army friends who give us enough space!

We all worry about "normal" ...... for most of us in this area, "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 a struggle to keep going in the face of adversity, disability, family troubles, lack of money, addictions, mental health or other issues, and now job uncertainty - holidays abroad are an unbelievable luxury!


October - continuing!

6 months into this crisis what was very different at first is now regular procedure. We don't wish to call it "normal" but that is what it has become! The new Committee has fresh people and fresh ideas alongside leaders who have been working in The Larder for years before; the Larder organisation, storage and delivery schedules are unrecognizable from the way we worked 6 months ago!

We are in an area of low transmission, but a few local people do test positive - in fact the Town Crier was hospitalised with Covid19 in the first wave. Sooner or later a volunteer might test positive, following which track and trace bureaucrats may impose a 14 day or longer isolation on people judged by them to be co-workers, resulting in a shortage of staff. But The Larder must continue without a break!!

Should we need help we feel sure that you, our church and community supporters, would step in for a few weeks - though meanwhile we already have more offers to volunteer on file. Nothing is predictable, but preparedness is better than panic!!

Hopefully this won't happen - but the world is currently full of hopes and maybes.

Demand is going up again, though not yet at the levels we saw in April and May. If anyone has a clear vision of how this will all work out, please tell us - and let our politicians know as well ...... the reality is that nobody knows.

Watching dog walkers, the dachsund has a lesson for all of us. We must to do the best we can with what little we may have .... especially in snow.

Harvest Festivals are helping us enormously as usual; churches collecting and above all schools being very generous as always. THANK you to all who help us to help those in need.

Future plans include reshaping the website and a change of name to "Exmouth Foodbank" which is perhaps what we are called anyway. Eight years ago everything was done in a hurry on a zero budget; now is a good time, with a fresh Committee, to plan and rethink combining new ideas with eight years experience.

Does anyone have the skills to manage a website and keep it up to date - and a willingness to volunteer .... ?? If so, please email to our "info" email address. The key is having a page which gives clear, simple and up-to-date information to people in a food emergency, leaving artists to superbly improve the overall appearance!

In summary, The Exmouth Community Larder continues - acting as intermediaries between people needing help and a community which is very generously giving supplies and also generous in volunteering time, both regularly and reliably.

It measures up to the East Devon motto - an OUTSTANDING PLACE !!!
THANK YOU ALL !!!


Larder report : November 2020 - in lockdown again!

Demand is going up - November so far is 20% up on the peak months of April and May. December in the past has been 30% up on November. News tells of West Country infections well below the national average, which draws attention away from it being 10 times what it was 6 weeks ago. It is realistic to plan for a huge further increase in need for the foodbank !!
The real difficulty for many families is the loss of income from problems in the economy, delays in Universal Credit benefits coming through, reduced income when it does and uncertainty for the future.

On the positive side, donations of supplies and cash continue to come from the whole locality. 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, and we have continued without a break throughout the crisis - in fact without a break since we started in late 2012!!
Christmas Day this year is a Friday, so for the first time in years we will close for that one day, but open again on Monday 28th December even though it is a bank holiday. People's needs don't stop for holidays - and at the major Christian Festivals we should especially look after others - as do people of all Faiths!!

Support for people in need has come from EDDC departments, 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. In acknowledging and appreciating the great support of volunteers, it is important to remember so many people doing regular jobs which are vital to those they serve. The EDDC housing team has worked wonders in getting a roof for otherwise homeless people.

Needs and difficulties are as diverse as people themselves!! In addition to food supplies, we all need to provide caring and compassionate support for people claiming Benefits, trying to stay connected to friends and family and staying positive. For food we arrange deliveries; for other help there is the phone!

The Larder is reaching out to learn 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; that is something that ALL of us can do with for all the people within our reach!!

As ever, a big THANK YOU to all who support The Larder helping our neighbours.


Larder report : December 2020 - ending a difficult year

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 show an even greater need as the financial hardships of job losses and the Covid Crisis continue to bite and savings run out.
The support The Larder gave last year in red shows an increase over the previous average in blue, but nothing compared with the surge at the start of the crisis in black. The numbers this April and May were enhanced by people needing help before their needs were met by commercial deliveries - not normal Larder users! Many recipients of government hand-outs donated them to The Larder. June onwards shows this settling down, but more than doubling from previous years and this rise is likely to continue. Christmas bags have been added to parcels for families, passing on the many festive treats that our donors have generously given.
At Christmas we celebrate the Creator coming to share our humanity, announced to 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 enough!! Jesus came to everyone, from the very lowest to the Three Kings. As the "T" shirt of a foodbank helper says : "One Creator, one Planet, one Family".

Yuletide is the old midwinter festival, taken 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 days starting to lengthen to bring the warmth of spring and visions of new shoots - 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 still 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 this is a good year to celebrate Yuletide for Christians too, especially as we now hope to get on top of the situation before the other great Festival of Easter.


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