What’s for dinner tonight?

A simple enough question though for people who have no food and no money to buy any it can obviously give rise to anxiety on a daily basis. However, there is help at hand.

Food banks provide invaluable practical help for those in need. It is believed that the first food bank was set up in the US, in Arizona in 1967. Food banks have become established more recently in the UK. The largest network in this country is administered by the Trussell Trust a Christian organisation based in Salisbury. Five years ago there were 22 food bank projects supported by the Trust. Today there are over 250 and the Trust aims to establish one in every major town in the UK. In 2011 – 12 its food banks provided sustenance for over 128,000 people nationwide, an increase of 100% over the previous year.

You might think that there would not be any need for a food bank in a town like Farnham. This is not the case. The Farnham food bank is well established and supports those in need in our community. It seeks to alleviate the delays which often occur between the effects on people of emotional or financial crises becoming apparent and state support becoming available to them. Farnham Food Bank is linked to the Trust’s national network and observes the principles up on which the network is based which is to provide compassionate yet professional relief to people in the greatest short-term need, restoring dignity and reviving hope.

Farnham CAB is one of a number of local organizations which distribute the food. The distributors can issue red vouchers to people requiring food and who have demonstrated that their need is genuine. The underlying cause could be one of a number of factors such as debt, delays or changes to benefits, domestic violence, unemployment or sickness.

A voucher can be presented at the Farnham food bank Centre and exchanged for three days worth of nutritionally balanced food. The items provided include tinned vegetables, meat, fish and fruit, UHT milk, sugar tea coffee cereal, cooking sauce, pasta and rice. The food is provided from within the local community. The Centre is open for three hours on each of two days of the week although emergency food supplies can be provided outside these hours if required. It is intended that the 3 day supply will cover the time it takes to resolve any crisis although longer term arrangements may be agreed under certain circumstances.

Farnham CAB is also a distributor for the Christmas food bags provided by the Farnham Lions. Elsewhere in the borough, In Godalming CA Waverley works with St John’s church in Milford independently of the Trussell Trust to distribute food donated by the congregation. Nationally, Citizens Advice saw a marked increase last year in inquiries from the media regarding the number of people being referred to food banks. This suggests that it is seen as an indicator of levels of hardship. Evidence gathering from bureaux across England and Wales was completed at the end of last year and the results will be published shortly.

Over the last two years the numbers of red vouchers issued by Farnham CAB has been as follows.
Number of vouchers issued 36.
Monthly median number of vouchers 2
Maximum monthly number of vouchers 9
Number of vouchers issued 95.
Monthly median number of vouchers 7
Maximum monthly number of vouchers 13

Although this represents a significant uplift year on year (164% in the totals and 250% in the monthly median) the numbers issued per quarter during 2012 are fairly consistent, albeit that there was a noticeable increase in the final quarter. CA Waverley will continue to monitor these trends.Our website (www.casws.org.uk) has recently been re-built and now offers much more. You can submit requests for advice and learn about what we do, including the way we use the data we gather to identify trends (like the increase in food bank referrals) and how we use this information to campaign for change

If you are finding it difficult to buy enough food for you and your family or require help with benefits housing, legal matters, discrimination, employment, immigration or consumer issues, please call the Citizens Advice Waverley line on 0844 848 7969. Advice is available face-to-face at Montrose House in South Street, Farnham or at our three other advice centres across Waverley (see our we site for details and opening times).and at our outreach mornings at Wrecclesham and Sandy Hill (term time only). We can also arrange some home visits.

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