Another year at Manchester Central Foodbank has passed, and what a year it has been! This year has brought a number of challenges and successes, and we have been able to overcome many obstacles to ensure that people experiencing food poverty in our city have access to the support they need.
The year started off with a bang – January was our busiest month of 2021, with 862 3-day emergency food parcels distributed, 298 of which went to children. We have never had a January as busy as this, and we knew that we needed to dedicate more of our time and resources to our campaigning efforts to combat these levels of poverty in our city. So, in February, we got together with our Trussell Trust Area Manager to create a vision for how we can work Together for Change. We have since integrated campaigns into our operations to help people to access targeted support that addresses the underlying reason for their crisis, and to provide stronger evidence of the drivers of extreme poverty and pushing for positive solutions that will help tackle these.
In March, we also began to explore the question of how we can use public space to tackle inequalities, and we launched the Placemaking Piccadilly campaign with community arts group Get It Done, striving for inclusive public spaces especially to those on low incomes. Since April, we have run consultation groups with marginalised communities across Manchester to redesign Piccadilly Gardens, a young Changemaker Meet-up event at Hatch with live music, a People’s Takeover of Piccadilly Gardens filled with a creative programme of workshops, talks and activities, and a Town Hall event building a manifesto of demands for Piccadilly ready to be presented to Manchester City Council next March.
April also saw us participate in the Greater Manchester Citizens Mayoral Assembly where we presented our anti-poverty campaign plans to the next Mayor of Greater Manchester. These plans involved the creation of a network of organisations committed to eradicating poverty across our region and implementing material inclusion, income maximisation and anti-stigma projects within schools, as well as championing the uptake of Healthy Start Vouchers across the city. We used this Assembly to request that Mayoral candidates support this mission, and we were grateful when all candidates did! This opportunity allowed us to begin holding policy makers to account, and when Andy Burnham won the Mayoral election, he agreed to meet with us to discuss our campaign asks in more detail.
In May, with the end of furlough for a number of our volunteers, we were no longer able to offer to deliver food parcels to people referred to our service. We are extremely grateful to the volunteer drivers who were able to give up their time to support our clients who would otherwise have struggled to access our services. One of their last volunteer tasks was to support with the delivery of our Holiday Help food parcels where we provide families experiencing financial hardship with lunch parcels for over school holidays. In June we distributed 862 food parcels to these families and trialled a pantry style delivery system whereby referred families could attend our pantry and choose the food items they needed, rather than receiving a pre-made food parcel. The families had really positive feedback, one parent telling us “opening those foodbank bags brought some light to my day. I dearly appreciate everything. God bless everyone behind the gifts. Thank you.” Another parent told us “the parcels helped a lot with having all the children at home over summer, thank you“.
As part of his campaign promise to Manchester Central Foodbank, July saw us meet with Mayor Andy Burnham who agreed to hold a Healthy Start summit, to bring together the key stakeholders who could increase the uptake of the vouchers which would see eligible low income families receive £4.25 worth of vouchers to purchase fruit, vegetables, milk and vitamins a week per child under the age of 4. The uptake rate in Greater Manchester is only around 55%, and we are committed to ensuring that struggling families are receiving all of the financial support they are entitled to.
In August, our Assistant Project Managers Patsy and Freya began working part-time as Campaigns Coordinators to support with the running of our campaigning efforts, and we welcomed a new Assistant Project Manager, Mary, to assist with the operational side of the foodbank. She has been an incredible asset to the team and we are lucky to have her working at Manchester Central Foodbank to help support people who need our service. To ensure that we are offering all of the support we can to our foodbank visitors, in September, the team undertook Mental Health First Aid Training so that we can support any visitors experiencing mental health crisis.
In October, we were able to expand the support we can offer to our community by assisting an amazing team of volunteers at St. Clements church with their foodbank service. This church is now Manchester Central Foodbanks third site in operation, and since October, we have distributed 291 emergency food parcels from this centre. The existing team welcomed us with open arms, and we are lucky to be able to work with such a dedicated group of volunteers.
In November and December, we rounded our campaigning efforts for the year with our Equal Start Network projects which saw us place financial advisors in seven schools across Greater Manchester who have raised an estimated £8,000+ for struggling families in our region. We also held Healthy Start Voucher roadshows in three schools in Manchester to encourage families to sign up for the vouchers, supported two schools to access free school uniforms for low income families, and assisted five schools to access emergency funds for families in financial crisis. December was also our busiest month for donations, and we were incredibly grateful to receive 4.1 tonnes of food from our wonderful donors! We were so happy to be able to welcome back some corporate volunteers to assist us in the mammoth task of sorting these donations, and we cannot thank our volunteers and donors for their support during this busy time.
Over the course of the year…
- We distributed 6,341 3-day emergency food parcels. Of this total, 3,757 parcels went to adults and 2,584 parcels were for children. This equates to 15,097 meals distributed in 2021.
- This year, the main trends we saw in the reasons for referral were chronic low income, with just under half of people using our foodbank stating this as their main cause of crisis. Following this, we supported a large number of families and individuals who had no recourse to public funds, and another growing group of people who were experiencing homelessness.
- We distributed over 61 tonnes of food this year, and we were incredibly grateful to have been donated 25 tonnes of food over the course of the year.
- As part of our Holiday Help scheme this year, we distributed 1,748 parcels to children, which equates to around 17,480 meals distributed.
None of this would have been possible without help from our incredible and dedicated team of volunteers who donated 2,300 hours of their time packing and distributing food parcels, donors, trustees and supporters. Their enthusiasm and commitment to eradicating hunger in our city drives our mission forward and we are inspired by their unwavering passion and kindness.
Next year we will continue to serve our local community and support people experiencing food poverty and financial crisis and we will be further embedding financial inclusion and income maximisation support into our every day operations to ensure that people who visit our foodbank are receiving all of the financial support they are entitled to. We will also be furthering our campaigning efforts and allocating more time and resources to aid our mission to end poverty and hunger in our city through the engagement of local communities and policy makers. Thank you to everyone who has made what we’ve done this year possible, and we hope we’ll earn your continued support through another busy and exciting year!