A local business has made a generous food bank donation to a Northwich food hub.
Taking inspiration from footballer Marcus Rashford, Harlech Foodservices, a wholesaler with a base in Chester, dropped off a haul of provisions at the Cheshire Food Hub in Northwich.
The Food Hub serves food banks across the county from Chester to Macclesfield.
The donation included 80 bumper boxes of 96 Weetabix, enough for several thousands of breakfasts, 63 packets of Chilli Con Carne sauce, over £200 worth of bread roll mix, hot chocolate, and other non-perishable items.
Last month, CheshireLive reported that reliance on food banks had soared across Cheshire during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jo Garner, of the charity Changing Lives Together, which co-ordinates the Food Hub, said: “We’re really grateful to Harlech because we realised there was going to be a huge demand for food banks across the county.
“During the summer we were feeding about 5,000 children with food boxes, mainly in Cheshire West but we’ve now moved to a bigger long-term base in Northwich which means we can look to buy in bulk and take donations of food from many sources.
“We can then ship it out to food banks from Chester in the west to Macclesfield in the east of the county and altogether we supply over 20 food banks in the sort of quantities they can use.
“It is quite a logistical exercise and we are looking for more vehicles before for the fleet of vans we run because demand is growing at a faster rate than we had expected.
“We’re now packing the Christmas boxes and we plan to do between two and three thousand of them while pin-pointing those who are in most desperate need so we can ship them out in the week before Christmas.
“That’s where items like Weetabix family packs donated by Harlech will be going.”
The delivery was organised by Ceri Brown, Harlech Foodservices Digital Project Manager, who said: “We have often donated to food banks but with the pandemic the need is so great and inspired by Marcus Rashford we wanted to do more.
“The effect of the recent lockdown was to leave us with plenty of stock so we have made arrangements and delivered to the Cheshire Food Hub at Northwich.
“There they were providing 1,000 Christmas boxes but with lockdown in England, that has now gone up to 10,000 and with our new depot in Chester we are hoping to help out a lot more in that area.
“We’d like to work with more food banks across our area of operation across North and Mid Wales and into Shropshire and the North West but we feel this was a good start and maintains our relationship with these three.
“But it is an ongoing project because a lot of people out there are facing really tough times and we’d like to carry on doing our bit to help them.”
Jo Garner added: “The idea of the food hub is that we take the pressure off the individual food banks who are busy enough without having to manage deliveries from various sources so instead we can co-ordinate them from here.
“But things are starting to go through the roof now with the number of referrals to food banks twice as high in November as they were in October so the plan is for us to supplement the food they already have.
“We can act as storage for them and I see myself as the facilitator making sure the supplies get out to the food banks who are on the front line.
“We can identify things that have a short shelf life and get them out as quickly as possible and if things are going to waste then we can pass them on quickly.
“At the same time we are trying to carry out a survey to find how many people the food banks are supporting and how they have arrived there because these food banks are all run by volunteers and they are exhausted.”
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Jo volunteered herself because she wanted to help out in rural areas where there is an often unseen need for food banks.
She said: “Changing Lives Together is good at logistics and the food has to come in and then it’s got to go out.
“That’s especially true as next year look as if it’s going to be catastrophic.
“It was busy in April but it’s going through the roof now.
“It’s not just about Christmas, it’s about January and beyond. It’s going to be critical because there’s a huge upsurge in the numbers of people coming into food banks.”