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A lifeline for Bridgwater families too poor to eat
DESPERATE Bridgwater families are going days without eating, according to a charity which is offering them a lifeline.
A volunteer with the Bridgwater Foodbank told the Mercury he sees people on an almost daily basis who have not eaten for several days, including parents with babies they cannot afford to feed.
Ted Stock told the Mercury that within the past week, he had helped a woman who came in with her two young children and said she hadn't been able to feed them for three days.
On another occasion, Mr Stock helped a homeless man who said he had not eaten for seven days.
He told the Mercury: “We are getting parents bringing in babies they cannot feed, and we've written to companies which make baby food to see if they can help us out.
“There are people in really desperate straits.
“In 2013, it's disgraceful that we have to do this. There has to be a political solution.”
The foodbank launched in March this year and after a slow start, now sees up to 18 people a day at its busiest.
Mr Stock said many people wrongly assume that those who use the service only have themselves to blame, for example because they are drug users.
However, Mr Stock said: “It's very often not of their own making. For example, if you are a self-employed carpenter who breaks his wrist and cannot work, you might live off your fridge and freezer for a few weeks, but then what?
“We also get people whose husbands and wives have left them with nothing.”
He added: “We can all see that the price of fuel is rising, and the cost of food, electricity and gas is going up, while wages have not risen for three years.
“There are 2.5million people in this country that live below the poverty line.”
While many of those who use the foodbank are in some form of accommodation, albeit often temporary, there are plenty who are homeless.
Mr Stock added: “I was told five years ago there were 15 homeless people in Bridgwater - I see 15 a week.
“It's a massive hidden problem and it's more than any government will recognise.”
Mr Stock said he and his fellow volunteers at the Bridgwater Foodbank cannot wait to start each shift, because they know they are changing lives.
There are currently 18 active volunteers, but more are being recruited.
Mr Stock, a former Samaritans and Citizens' Advice Bureau worker, said: “The volunteers cannot get enough shifts; they know they are making people's lives better.
“Our job is to give the people who come in a little boost, to lift their spirits.
“Christmas is coming up and there are many people who can't afford to have a Christmas.
“We want to make this Christmas that little bit better for them.”
However, Mr Stock is keen to stress the Foodbank, based in Northgate, is only for people in genuine crisis, and is not a drop-in centre.
People wishing to get food must first approach a local care organisation.
- Sedgemoor Citizens' Advice Bureau
- The YMCA
- The Salvation Army
- POD 1 Social Services
- Home Start
- Somerset Families
- Sedgemoor Family Focus
- Homes in Sedgemoor
- Sedgemoor 2 Children's Centre Cluster
- Sedgemoor 3 Children's Centre Cluster
- The Alfred Jewel Benefice
- Avon and Somerset Probation Service
- Knightstone Housing Association People can also be referred through their health visitors.
They then get a voucher, which can be used to get enough food to provide three balanced meals a day, for three days.
Mr Stock said: “People can go round and get items for a balanced diet: cereal, sugar, milk, fruit juice, vegetables, pasta, tins of meat and a bit of fruit.
“They can come back three times, which could be over any time - weeks or months.
“But they must not rely on it. If they keep coming back, it's not a crisis. We do try to put people in the direction of other organisations which can help, for example with free legal advice.”
Bridgwater Foodbank is a registered Christian charity, run by volunteers under the guidance of the Trussell Trust.
Opening hours are 2pm to 4pm, Tuesdays and Fridays.
Foodbank volunteers will collecting items for Christmas at Asda on November 23, and at Morrisons on November 30.
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