"Whats been absolutely incredible is the amount of food and money that has been donated by hundreds of well-wishers over the past few months weve never had so much food."
Foodbanks across Stratford District have been blown away by the generosity of residents at a time when demand for their services has shot up dramatically.
The pandemic has seen more and more people needing foodbanks as a last resort to ensure they are able to put food on the table.
In Stratford District, this spike in demand has been met by a surge in donations of both food and money from kind residents wanting to help those whose lives have been turned upside-down by COVID-19.
Marion Homer, Foodbank Manager at Stratford-upon-Avon Foodbank, said although demand had gone up, she was confident the foodbank would be able to serve its clients throughout the Christmas period.
The foodbank is now working alongside a representative from the Citizens Advice Bureau, who is able to help visitors with issues beyond putting food on the table.
Marion said: “It's not just about food - it's about helping people get out of the situation they are in. As a foodbank, of course we want to help people in difficult times, but we don’t want people to keep coming back.
"Thanks to having Citizens Advice in the foodbank, we are now able to signpost our clients to the organisations they need to get help.
"When our clients visit us, we ask them if they need any help with other things such as benefits or job applications. Around two-thirds say yes.
"We can then refer them directly to Citizens Advice, who can then point them in the right direction.
"In the meantime, our volunteers are continuing to do an incredible job in difficult circumstances, and I have to thank the people, businesses and charities in Stratford for their generous donations."
Hilary Volrath, a volunteer and committee member at the Arden Foodbank – which operates in both Alcester and Studley once a week - was amazed at how many people stepped up to help when people needed it most.
She said: “Demand at our two centres went up by around 400 per cent at the start of the pandemic, and demand now is still double what it was this time last year.
“Most of our volunteers are over 70, and because of the government’s rules during the first lockdown, many of us were not allowed to work. We had to rely on getting younger volunteers in for a while.
“What’s been absolutely incredible is the amount of food and money that has been donated by hundreds of well-wishers over the past few months – we’ve never had so much food.
“Because of how much we’ve received, we’re aiming to put together food hampers for those on free school meals over Christmas at some of the primary schools in the area. I can’t thank our donors enough for their generosity.”
The Fosse Foodbank, with centres in Southam, Wellesbourne, Bishop’s Itchington and Kineton, also faced an increase in demand.
And Jackie Grey, who manages the Southam distribution centre, was astonished at the donations the foodbank received.
“We have such a strong community spirit here in Southam, so in a way I’m not surprised at how many people have donated in such a tough time.” she said.
“Plenty of individuals and community groups have donated – we even had one couple who donated food worth £100.
“But we wouldn’t be able to run the foodbank without our brilliant volunteers, who have worked so hard all the way through this pandemic not only to run the foodbank, but to make deliveries to vulnerable people.”
And in Shipston, Stratford district councillor Jo Barker, who helps run the foodbank there, praised the town’s residents for their generosity.
She added: “Although we’ve had an incredible number of donations – sometimes as much as £300 a week - there have been other acts of kindness too from Shipston’s residents.
“I know one couple in their 90s who have been knitting hats for vulnerable people and donating them, we’ve had a web developer donate his services for free to improve our website, and a lady who’s made Avon gift bags for people.
“We’ve had brilliant support from our shops too – our butchers Taylors and greengrocers Turners have taken vouchers from us to allow people to have fresh meat, fish and vegetables, to add to what we give out at the foodbank.
“A lot of people might not think there are poor areas in and around Shipston, but there are. The great thing is that when times are tough, Shipston's people really band together to help each other out.”
Anyone wishing to donate to the foodbanks or find out more should visit:
Stratford - https://stratforduponavon.foodbank.org.uk/
Arden - https://arden.foodbank.org.uk/
Fosse - https://fosse.foodbank.org.uk/
Shipston - https://www.shipstonfoodbank.org.uk/
CAPTION – From left: Cllr Jo Barker (Shipston Foodbank), David Volrath and Hilary Volrath (Arden Foodbank) and Marion Homer (Stratford Foodbank) outside Stratford Methodist Church, where Stratford foodbank operates from