A Henley food bank has delivered nearly 10 times more food parcels during the coronavirus pandemic than it did a year ago.
The food bank is run by the Nomad Food and Community Project – a charity that gives grass-roots support to local children, young people and families facing challenging situations. In the seven weeks from 23 March, Nomad delivered 340 food parcels, up from 36 during the same period in 2019. The parcels comprised 804 bags of food and toiletries for about 100 households, and over a third of the recipients were children.
The charity’s staff members work closely with their regular clients, helping them make good choices with their finances, health, relationships, work lives, education and recreation time. They also run mentoring programmes in schools and offer signposting to public services and other specialist organisations.
More Demand in Lockdown
In normal times, the food bank is just one part of Nomad’s range of services, but it has become a lot more active since the start of lockdown. Demand has increased for a number of reasons – some people have suddenly become more vulnerable because they have lost their jobs, or they are unwell or unable to work. Others are struggling with social isolation without their families and friends and their usual support networks. Many people simply cannot make ends meet, and sometimes benefits payments take time to come through.
Nomad’s staff members currently have more time than usual to spend on sorting, packing and making deliveries, because social distancing rules are preventing them from carrying out most of their normal face-to-face activities. Clients are usually referred to the charity by social services, GP practices, schools and other care professionals – however, in these unprecedented times, people are being introduced on a more informal word-of-mouth basis (for example through Henley’s Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group).
Nomad shares the D:Two Community Centre building with Henley Baptist Church at 55 Market Place, Henley. Church Leader Jeremy Bray said: “Nomad already know the majority of people quite well, and so they know their particular needs and they can be quite tailored and personal. But what they are finding is that an increasing number of older people, who perhaps they haven’t met before, are coming on the scene – people who need that extra little bit of support.”
Help From the Local Community
The charity has been able to cope however, because donations have gone up in line with the increase in demand. “The amazing thing that has happened is that the generosity of the local community is providing that level of support – so a lot is going out, but a lot is coming in at the same time,” said Jeremy.
Henley residents can continue to help by donating non-perishable food items like tinned fruit and vegetables, tinned meat and fish, rice, pasta and sauces. Treats like biscuits, crisps and chocolate are also gratefully received. Other useful basic necessities include cleaning products, toiletries and nappies – updated lists of requirements are posted on Nomad’s Facebook page. Donations can be dropped off at the collection point at Tesco in Henley, or at the D:Two Centre (weekday mornings only). Donated items are stored in the two food bank rooms for a few days, to ensure that no coronavirus contamination is accidentally passed on, and then parcels are packed and delivered directly to households.
Nomad is not currently recruiting additional volunteers, but monetary donations are welcome and can be made through their website. Staff members use the cash to add fresh food to parcels, and they occasionally buy a few small games and activities to help their clients pass the time in lockdown.