The foodbank has been awarded £7,500 from the Dorset Community Foundation’s Dorset Community Coronavirus Fund and will use £3,440 of it to hire a café manager. The grant was made with money from BCP Council’s Winter Grant Scheme under its partnership with the community foundation to support community food projects.
Fundraiser and volunteer co-ordinator Lauren Franks said the café plan is part of an expansion at the foodbank’s base at St George’s Methodist Church in Haviland Road. “Part of that will be to have a kitchen and café area,” she said.
“We’ll be able to offer our clients a more welcoming experience. At the moment they just go through a door, get their box handed to them and they leave. With the café they can sit down and wait for their food parcel and get a free hot meal and a drink and chat to our volunteers.”
The café will offer more than just somewhere to eat and drink, said Mrs Franks. “We’ll also use the kitchen for training so that the volunteers we have in, some of whom are former clients, can learn to cook and serve in the café to get more skills and make them more employable. We want to do more than just feed people, we want to equip them with new knowledge and give them confidence.”
The charity is in the process of hiring the manager and will have the café open as soon as Covid restrictions permit.
Mrs Franks said the extra help is desperately needed in Boscombe. “The café is in a perfect location for us, by the bus station and the Sovereign Centre,” she said. “Boscombe is our busiest site and the need there is huge. In the whole of 2019 we fed around 9,000 people at our four sites, but 5,000 of those were at St George’s.”
The café opening comes after the foodbank saw its busiest ever year, with demand for help rising by 69 per cent at the height of the first lockdown. Mrs Franks said: “It was a crazy time, our phone lines were busy, we suddenly had a bunch of vulnerable people who couldn’t get to us because they had to isolate. We don’t normally do a delivery service but we had to adapt and set up one.”
The charity is expecting 2021 to be just as busy and will be using the other half of its grant to cover staff hours. Said Mrs Franks: “Our director, warehouse manager, office manager and I have all had to do extra hours to keep up with demand. We’ve had to double our office volunteers from four to eight just to cope with the extra enquiries coming in. We know we are going to be just as busy next year.
“On average we have ten volunteers a month apply but in October and November we had 60 volunteers apply, which is wonderful. However they all need to have interviews, reference checks and training, it’s a lot of extra admin work.”
She said the community foundation’s grant will help keep the charity running. “It is a huge help to us, the general running costs are one of the unseen but most helpful things you can fund for charities like us. Having staff to run things is absolutely vital and this grant is wonderful.
“We think the demand will probably increase. We are expecting a rise in unemployment when the furlough scheme ends. One of the main things that affects people when they lose their job is waiting four or five weeks for their benefits and that can be a real pinch point. We can help with their emotional and mental health because they know we are there for them to get food and support and signpost them to other services as well.”
Dorset Community Foundation chief executive Grant Robson said: “It is terribly sad that Bournemouth Foodbank is needed so badly and that so many people have been tipped into poverty. But without the dedication and commitment of its staff where would people be? We are so pleased to fund this fantastic charity and look forward to seeing the difference the café will make.”