Written by Tracy Kohl, founding manager of West End Impact.
At this time of year, we receive many donations and volunteers as it is the time of giving. We appreciate every single one of those volunteers in our annual appreciation meal. However, poverty isn’t just a Christmas crisis. Come new year, temporary shelters will ask people to move on, hotels will open themselves back up to tourists, and those generous volunteers will go back to their day jobs. But where does that leave the people in crisis?
After people have tidied away their Christmas decorations, taken their tree to the tip, and put their unwanted gifts on marketplace, there are charities, faith groups and generous volunteers across the nation who work tirelessly to feed, house and support people who are in poverty all year round.
But how many people in our local area are in ‘food poverty’?
At West End Impact, we have given out 1300 food parcels in the last 12 months.
At Morecambe Bay Food Bank, they have given out 5264 food parcels in the last 12 months.
Collectively that’s 6564 and whilst there may be an overlap of numbers that’s 6564 too many.
There may be people who used the food bank who did not genuinely need it, but it has never been a concern to us at WEI.
Leeds Food Bank manager, Alan Lane said: “This idea that someone’s somewhere giggling because they’ve managed to get a free bag of pasta – they don’t exist in any real numbers. There are just people who don’t have enough money to have the choice between that and something else. So, we are able during this time to give them the choice.”
At West End Impact (WEI), alongside giving out emergency food parcels our main aim is to address the reasons why people are in food poverty. We run a ‘no questions asked’ scheme for our emergency food parcels and hot meals (which are served twice a week) as there are many reasons why people find themselves in poverty. It can be as simple as a relationship break down or loss of a job.
But we don’t just hand out a food parcel and wave them on. We also run Advice and Guidance sessions twice a week to help people get all their benefit entitlements and any grants they may be eligible for. We have stayed open throughout the pandemic, as it has been especially difficult for people to survive on benefits and it has led to major increases in mental health issues. Our ‘Living Life to the Full’ course has been the busiest it’s ever been!
We are very aware that many of the people we help can’t afford Christmas, so we aim to make it special. WEI feeds around 80-90 people a three- course Christmas dinner and provides a goody bag of essentials such as toiletries, warm hats, gloves and socks. We also provide those who have children with presents to give to them.
Sainsbury’s, from which we get customer donations all year round, always makes a special effort for us at Christmas – usually providing the fresh vegetables for the Christmas dinner. We are also very thankful to Kennedy’s Butchers and Preston’s who have provided turkeys and meat over the last few years, and to ASDA who have contributed to our Christmas dinner.
This year, Morrisons have set up a ‘Community Donations Christmas Tree’ with various baubles hanging on it worth £1, £2 and £5 which you can pick up and pay for it at the checkout. All baubles bought will be added up and donated to West End Impact.
We want to thank the huge array of people, organisations and businesses around Morecambe that continue to support our work at West End Impact!
Photo Credits – Bipolaroid by Kirsty Bob