Hard to swallow?

What’s your perception of a Food Bank? Our guess is that unless you’ve been to one, you may well be wide of the mark. We took time to visit Cupar’s Food Bank and to discuss their work with the project’s manager, Joe Preece. An ex Army man, Joe’s passion for helping people and understanding complex logistics shines through. He and his team of remarkable volunteers are running the food bank with military precision … and the coming months with the countdown to Christmas brings a sharper focus to their work …

There’s no signage outside the food bank, so I knocked on the door and waited. Joe’s smiling face was a reassuring welcome as the door swung open and he welcomed me in. No signage? Joe explains: “There’s a stigma. Many feel ashamed to use the facility and we’d rather people feel welcomed and unafraid to visit than put up any barriers.

Inside, Joe takes me to the reception and offers a cuppa. That welcome is given to all – and they have small reception rooms off the main entrance where any visitors can be met to best understand their needs. Each has a collection of second hand toys – testament to the number of young families who use the  bank.

Help is at hand

There are currently numerous agencies who can refer people. Joe talks me through the paperwork to show how their ‘check in’ process works. The human touch is evident in all … to ensure visitors are welcomed and receive a listening ear. Joe is quick to explain that the bank is very much the last port of call for many. “There are perceptions, but we know those who visit us are very often at rock bottom. It is true of many that they are just one pay packet away from our door.”

 

And those perceptions come back into mind – but they couldn’t be further from the truth. In the weeks before our visit, Joe talks through some of the folk who have used their services. Parents who have had their partners walk out on them and have no money to buy food. Mums who are out of work and at a loss on how to make ends meet. Dads who have been made redundant who turn up in tears because they feel ashamed to be here. People with learning difficulties who are struggling to cope with life and need help to manage the most basic needs around food. Older people who have lost a partner and are bereft and unable to cope. Some – especially older men – have no idea how to cook or how to run their homes.

Joe takes me on a walk around the labyrinth of corridors and rooms where all kinds of produce is stored. He shows me the ‘arrivals’ area where donated goods are checked in. They are sorted and relabelled to highlight sell by dates. He walks me through the rooms where a small army of volunteers rock up for shifts to prepare parcels to help those in need. He shows me a room where they are gathering basic equipment – from crockery and cutlery to bedding and more … all as emergency provisions for those who just don’t know where to turn. They have a rack of second hand coats. “We’re coming into winter. If people turn up cold and wet – as sadly too may do – we’ll make sure they leave with a coat to help keep them dry and warm.

This is an extraordinary operation. Take away the politics and the economics … this is front line care for the most vulnerable people in our community.

And then there’s Christmas – a time of giving. Joe and his team already have an eye on the festive season unsure and unaware of exactly how many people might be referred to them. “We want to make sure those who are referred to us receive a hamper that shows the people of this town care. For those we will be looking to source some kind of joint for a sustaining meal come Christmas Day.” And that’s what they do. Day in, day out. Provide sustenance … all year round.

Pass on the Pasta

Joe is matter of fact about what they need. Collections and donations often provide a glut of pasta! “We’re not really able to share any fresh goods as we don’t have the storage facilities, so almost all the food we provide is either in packets, boxes or tins. Pasta is an easy one to give, but we have quite a glut.” So Joe is keen to stress that a variety of produce is very welcome.

He tells us of one elderly gent who – having received his parcel – just sat in silence. “We didn’t know what was wrong but I knew something was up. We eventually discovered he had no tin opener at home.” The bank now has a small supply to openers to ensure anyone being given tinned produce is able to use it.

We are breaking down barriers. When people visit us they feel about as low as it is possible to feel. We aim to give them a little hope that demonstrates folk do care. And if we can work with the agencies who refer people to us, we might just be able to help those before they get to our door.

Back at the front door, Joe explains some of their challenges. A very old building that requires maintenance … not just in the very fabric of the place but in the electrics, the equipment and their IT. They don’t have a dedicated phone line or WiFi.

Help Cupar Food Bank!

Throughout September, over 1,000kg of food has been distributed to 125 people – supporting 84 adults and 41 children. Without it, they’d have gone hungry. Over 90% of the food distributed by foodbanks in The Trussell Trust network is donated by the public – that’s why food donations are absolutely vital to the Bank’s ability to give everyone referred a balanced and nutritious three day supply of food.

If you are happy to donate food, please see the table below for two of the many food collection point locations:

Big or small, every gift helps transform lives …

Our food bank is run by local people for local people. It relies on our community’s support. Can you invest in the future of the project?

  • Regular giving via standing order with gift aid?
  • One-off gift? Make a donation by BACS/Direct Debit. The Foodbank Details are: RBS (Sort Code: 83-17-23) Account Number: 00269012
  • Legacy? A single gift could secure someone’s future. Contact the Food Bank to find out more.
  • Fundraise for us? There are some helpful hints and ideas in our handy fundraising booklet: Download your copy

 

High Fives!

Cupar Food Bank held a function in Lodge Coupar o’ Fife No 19 to recognise the years of service provided by volunteers. Monsignor Pat McInally, chairman of the board of trustees, welcomed everyone to the evening and thanked all the volunteers, without whose help and support the food bank could not function. Willie Rennie MSP presented certificates – awarded by Fife Voluntary Action – to the volunteers: each volunteer had worked more than 5 years at the food bank.

Willie informed the assembled company that the food bank had received certificates which in total, amounted to 120 years voluntary service, adding that every volunteer should be proud of their achievement. There was a special certificate awarded to Robert McNaughton who had been nominated as Fife Voluntary Action volunteer of the year. Food for the evening was provided by both the volunteers and trustees.

Fishers & Donaldson provided a selection of cakes of the event. Entertainment was provided by Barri Jones, himself a volunteer at the food bank. The picture (below) shows Willie Rennie MSP, Monsignor Pat McInally and some of the volunteers who attended the evening.

 

Cupar Foodbank

21 St Catherine Street, Cupar, KY15 4TA

Opening times: Monday 11am – 3pm  |  Wednesday 4pm – 6pm  |  Friday 11am – 3pm – then again between 5pm – 6pm

e: info@cupar.foodbank.org.uk   t: 07474453153

 

Community Partnership

Many individuals, companies and other organisations support the Cupar Food Bank. We want to help them too. We chat with Joe about how CuparNow’s ground-breaking Digital Improvement District might be able to help with digital training and provision of WiFi. That help relies on many things, not least of all a successful ballot this autumn when all non-domestic rate paying businesses in Cupar will be asked to back our work by making a commitment to pay a small levy each year for the next five years.

If we’re successful, part of CuparNow’s remit is to use our digital hub to support multiple audiences … including community groups. We’re already demonstrating how that’s happening, but it will only continue with the backing of business.

The ballot runs from 31st October to 12th December. Come Friday 13th, we’ll know if we’ve been successful. If we are, we’ll be returning to the Food Bank – and other community groups – to help them with their digital participation and skills. Click and collect may be associated with the luxuries of online shopping. We hope we can add our weight to ensure improved digital connectivity can help to support those most in need in our community … clicks for collective benefit.

How can you help?

This is our appeal: please ask the businesses you know in Cupar to back CuparNow in the upcoming ballot. If they need more information, get them to message us. We’ll happily show how the work we are delivering is supporting and benefiting businesses. We have many testimonials to prove it. Practical help? Why not start by sharing this Blog with those you know work in the town and asking them to back us?

And finally …

We titled this Blog ‘hard to swallow’. We know some perceptions will be hard to change. What we found was a compassionate community project that’s looking out for those most in need. Is it abused? Not from what we saw. Could people milk the system? The agency referral process is clear: to get to their door, you’ve most likely had many others shut in your face.  No one knows what tomorrow brings. No one can predict how any of us might end up in need of urgent help. It is good to know the likes of Joe and his team are there … come what may.

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Thanks for reading.