Well-Deserved Queen’s Award

Well-Deserved Queen’s Award

With two paid staff and nearly 100 volunteers Barrow food bank, is a real community project. The central warehouse in Abbey Road Baptist Church, Barrow stores donated food and prepares packed boxes ready to go out across south west Cumbria. It has local distribution points at Bethany Church in Ulverston and Baptist Church inMillom.  It works closely with 200 referral agencies to supply emergency food parcels to those in need. Started in 2012 it collected the second highest amount of all food banks in the country. Five years later they are still giving away an average of 6.6 tonnes of food a month.

A dietician from the Trusell Trust who support the nationwide network of 420 food banks reviews the food parcels annually to ensure a balanced diet is provided. 

But today they are running out. Why? Not because of a decrease of generosity but mostly, according to the food bank due to an ongoing change in the government's welfare system resulting in a delay in benefits by up to six weeks. There has been an increase in outgoings by 30%. Families on low incomes can find themselves in need of help if an unexpected bill needs paying, through ill health or the breakdown of relationships resulting in separation or divorce and the financial implications involved.

The U.K. is the world's sixth richest country and yet 1 in 5 live below the poverty line. The food bank aims to help those thirteen million people break the cycle of poverty.

But the need is far greater than simply supplying food.

Ann Mills, project manager said, "The food bank is a little bit of kindness in the midst of it all."

Here people receive a warm welcome and a cuppa. It gives people back their dignity and works hard to prevent social segregation.

This place also acts like a sign post directing people to where they can receive the help they need, whether it is a chat with Citizens Advice Bureau staff member, discussing tasty and economical ways to cook great meals, financial advice and fuel banks.

With the money N Power were fined for overcharging their customers, a fuel bank has been created to help those in difficulty with paying their utility bills. Between Nov 2016 and May 2017 £37,000 Barrow food bank has given as fuel vouchers. 

There are strict anti fraud policies in place to prevent the system from being  abused Like any other food business the food bank is inspected annually by Environmental Health and they must abide by all food regulations. Confidentiality and data protection is vital to the future of the project. The ultimate penalty for fraudsters is permanent exclusion from the Food Bank.

Ann Mills praised the people of her town, "Barrow is not a rich town but it has the most generous community." 

"If everyone donated one can once a year, the food bank would be fully stocked for twelve months, with a bit left over."

Only two charities in Cumbria have received the Queen's award for voluntary service this year. Ann Mills received this equivalent to an individual's MBE, on behalf of all the volunteers.  The Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria, Mrs Claire Hensman, will be presenting the foodbank with their letter from the Queen and their crystal dome on 15th August at Forum 28. "It is a real boost to all who are involved, " she said.

This award is the highest given to volunteer groups across the UK to recognise outstanding work done in the community. 64.689 tonnes of food have been given out in the last financial year across south west Cumbria and none of that would be possible without the help of volunteers in Ulverston, Dalton, Millom, Grange over Sands, Cartmel and Barrow.

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