It’s a sad indictment of contemporary society that food banks are one of the country’s growth industries.
The Elland food bank began in October 2015 helping just one family. Now, it has more than 150 people registered with them and hands out around 30 bags of food on average every Saturday morning at the Southgate Centre on Langdale Street.
“I think it’s terrible we are having to do such a thing,” says Rev Colin Sherwood, chair of the Elland food bank, and Minister of Southgate Methodist Church.
“It became obvious to me there was a desperate need out there. I was getting people asking for help at the church and I was eager to get involved from the start.
“It’s very sad we have to do such a thing. We’re helping people at their lowest ebb.
“We see a few people who are working but they’re on low wages and usually only in part-time work.
“Most are unemployed and around half have children I would say.
“But they’re all in desperate need of our help.
“We get various responses when you first meet people. Some might say ‘I’m due this or that’ but for most people, the last thing they want to do is admit they need help.
“It takes a lot of strength to come to us and say ‘I need help’.
“I know people myself that could do with the help. There are more people out there in need of our help.”
As well as a bag of food, customers are also offered a warm welcome, refreshments, and a friendly chat every Saturday from 10.15am to 11.45am.
Colin believes the demand for food banks will continue to increase. “I think it’s getting worse and worse,” he said. “In the last few weeks it has really started to rise. We’re getting more than 30 people a week now, but if all the people registered with us came together we would be cleaned out.
“We’re so blessed by the generosity of people helping us, be it financially or local shops.
“We are limited by how much we can store. We had 1,000 hot dogs at one point, and we got a phone call another time to say ‘would we be interested in 1,000 tins of mackerel’, but we did manage to hand them all out.”
Colin says the food bank needs more donations and more volunteers.
“There are times when we are really pushed for volunteers because there is so much to do,” he added. “I know people are always blaming the Government for things, but we would also like more intervention from the Government.
“They say they’ve never had so many people in work but I know people who are working but haven’t got a proper contract, and have part-time jobs or are called up whenever necessary by their employers, and can’t feed their families.
“We have had people come back to us to say ‘thank you’ who have managed to find a job and move on, which means the world to us.
“In a simple way, we are changing lives. But there are so many things wrong with society and the food bank is a symptom of what’s going on.”
To make a food or financial donation, or to become a volunteer, call 01422 364620 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.