Church Village food bank is relying on new funding and extra donations to keep going

Supplies in the Salem Chapel cupboards have been dwindling every fortnight during the pandemic

SUPPLIES at the Salem Food Bank are dwindling every two weeks and volunteers are relying on extra cash donations and new funding to top up the food parcels.

Food bank manager, Emma Birch splits her time between coordinating the food bank, her day job as an educational psychologist, and motherhood.

“[Managing the foodbank] is equally stressful and rewarding,” said Dr Birch.

“We’ve never turned anyone away but there’s been times when it’s felt like we might have to.”

Salem Food Bank volunteers organising donations.

In the peak of the pandemic the food bank was providing 35 households with essential supplies every week. However, that number has since decreased to around 25 households.

The total number of households currently on the food bank’s books is around 45 but many of these will only use the food bank at the end of the month when their financial situation becomes strained.

Despite receiving 10 to 12 food donations each week, volunteers need to use cash donations and funding from various sources to go to a supermarket once a month to purchase additional supplies.

“One Saturday I’ll close the cupboards and think everything is there, I look at it and I think we’re never going to run out of soup, then literally the next week or the week after we’re short on milk, soup, baked beans and whatever else,

“On a fortnightly basis, we’re probably short enough to be asking ‘do we need to go out and buy some ourselves or can we rely on donations from people?’”

The Trussell Trust is the UK’s largest charity working to end the need for foodbanks.

The charity supports a network of nearly 1,400 food banks to provide emergency food, compassionate and practical support to people living in poverty.

The pandemic has exacerbated problems and The Trussell Trust has seen an increased reliance on food bank support over the last year.

For the first six months of the pandemic, the Trussell Trust distributed 2,600 parcels to children every day across the UK and worryingly, this winter is expected to return even higher numbers.

The charity has 117 food banks throughout Wales which distributed over 70,000 food parcels from 1 April, 2020 to 30 September, 2020.

Of those food parcels, 25,500 were distributed to children across Wales.

While figures from The Trussell Trust can be used to paint a relatively accurate picture of trends in the UK, the numbers do not fully reflect the extent of the usage, as the trust only represents 78% of UK food banks.

According to the Independent Food Aid Network there are over 400 independent food banks and many other organisations which have rallied to distribute food and supplies during the pandemic which are not a part of The Trussell Trust network.

Salem Chapel, Tonteg is home to the Salem Food Bank

The local community has been a critical component in keeping the Salem Food Bank running.

“It’s been really rewarding seeing how the community has responded, how local businesses have responded and how stuff has just fallen into place,” added Mrs Birch.

During the pandemic some of the most sought-after and useful donations are cleaning supplies as people are becoming increasingly concerned about the cleanliness of their homes.

“If you’re struggling hand-to-mouth, that’s a tough call to make, ‘do I want to invest in an anti-bacterial spray or do I want to eat today?’” said Mrs Birch.

Besides professional referrals, the food bank also allows anyone to turn up on a Saturday to claim a food parcel.

Walk-ins are asked to provide evidence of hardship on their third visit, such as a change in income or universal credit.

According to Mrs Birch there are sometimes questions raised as to whether or not people are misusing the services.

She said: “Ultimately, I think I would rather reach the people that need it and risk being slightly misused by the odd person than be so strict that people who need it aren’t getting it, I’d rather have that kind of grace.”

The food bank is based in the Salem Chapel, so volunteers abide by a Christian ethos.

  • If you wish to get in touch with the Salem Food Bank to donate or to collect a food parcel you can do so between 10.30am and 12.30pm every Saturday.
  • Alternatively, you can contact a member of the team via the Salem Food Bank Facebook page here.