It’s staggering to think that, less than 20 minutes’ drive from central Durham, over 700 families, 1500 individuals and 800 children have at some point had to rely on emergency food parcels, even for a short period of time. But that’s the stark reality that many people in East Durham are facing.
The East Durham Trust set up their FEED (Food Emergency East Durham) food bank in 2010 and has since seen demand soar almost ten-fold. Food bank usage nationally has increased by three times and East Durham represents one of the most stricken areas. As a result, The Trust has had to dip into dwindling funds to meet demand, which should be being used to improve other aspects of the community.
What is the FEED project?
The FEED project works on a referral system, meaning people cannot simply walk into a centre and pick up food. Families are referred by social workers, doctors, police, etc and therefore are in true crisis. FEED has a number of collection points across East Durham where people can make donations of everyday foods and essentials. Volunteers then make up food parcels at the Trust’s Headquarters in nearby Peterlee and they are then dispatched by a trained team of FEED advocates.
I first found out about the scheme last year when I visited the Trust as Outreach Coordinator with Student Community Action. I thought it was a great idea and something students could easily become involved with, so decided to introduce FEED at Durham University.
After some planning over summer, I placed a food collection box in 14 of the University’s 16 Colleges. (St. John’s and Josephine Butler already have their own food bank schemes running.) I also made sure there was a collection box in the SCA office at the Students’ Union and advertised the project through posters, email and social media then waited for the boxes to fill.
The response has been brilliant – SCA’s fantastic team of college ambassadors now bring the boxes to the weekly Wednesday meeting and there’s never enough space in the box to accommodate all the bags of kindly donated food.
A thank you is in order to everyone who has spared a thought for those going hungry in the towns and villages next door, It just shows all it takes to make a huge difference is a small difference.
With it being the end of term I’m planning an all-college sweep of halls to collect unwanted food to donate. I also hope to have a Christmas-themed publicity campaign, asking students and staff across the University to consider buying a festive item – like mince pies or a Christmas pudding, to bring a little extra sparkle to someone’s food parcel at a time of year when many of us will be taking our Christmas dinners for granted.
I’d also like to explore the possibility of getting food banks in the University’s YUM cafes, and encourage people to buy an extra chocolate bar or packet of crisps to pop into the collection – these small items really do add up.
I’d like to say a thousand thank yous to everyone who’s donated to the food bank and supported it in its early stages.
If you would like to get involved with The FEED project or anything else through SCA visit www.dur.ac.uk/community.action/.
Fran is studying Politics at Hatfield College.