Food bank is lifeline for the hungry during coronavirus crisis

When the coronavirus pandemic forced a well-used foodbank to close, staff and volunteers were determined it should reopen to carry on helping people in need.

Mary’s Foodbank@Sutton, based in the Magdelene Centre at St Mary’s Church, Sutton in Ashfield, shut for a week when it ran out of food – it could no longer buy supplies in bulk from its local supermarket due to shortages caused by panic buying – and donations from the public dried up.

But organisers switched to a new supermarket, and with help from the MP, county and district councils the foodbank reopened and is now giving food to the needy despite the restrictions imposed to halt spread of the virus.

The food bank opens at 10.30am every Friday and people who have been referred by a statutory agency are given an appointment time to attend so that social distancing can be observed, said the Vicar of St Mary’s Fr Andy Nicolls.

“We were running with 15 volunteers before but we have cut that down to four,” said Andy. “People are approaching us about volunteering to help during the crisis but we are referring them to Age UK who need help with their deliveries.”

The foodbank is helping to feed around forty adults and 15 children who are struggling with issues such as delays in benefit payments, leaving hostel accommodation, moving into supported living, and women who have moved into refuges to escape domestic violence – Mary’s Foodbank also supplies sanitary wear, nappies, wipes and toiletries.

The offer of help is not a one-off either, Mary’s Foodbank will support the people over several weeks until their situations improve: ‘A hand up, not a hand out’ is their motto.

Fr Andy said they had developed strong links with the local authorities and DWP, and he thanked them for their support.

“When things were at their most difficult, they did everything they could to make things work and in the next couple of weeks we are expecting to receive some financial support as well. We really appreciate the way in which they have helped us.”

At the end of last week two Mansfield Town players, Krystian Pearce and Haydn White, delivered a car-load of food that had been bought by the players – the delivery was worth nearly £600.

Sainsbury have also donated boxes full of food, a wholesaler has given fruit and veg it cannot distribute, and the Lammas Leisure Centre has done the same after food nearing its sell-by date had to be cleared out.

Mary’s Foodbank@Sutton has been operating for eight years, serving people in Sutton, Stanton Hill, Skegby, Teversal and Huthwaite. Last year over 3,000 people in difficulty were supported.