HUNDREDS of families struggling to pay bills received supermarket gifts cards to help make ends meet thanks to a partnership between Dorset Community Foundation and Dorset Council.
The project by Dorchester Poverty Action was one of 18 across the area funded with £70,000 of the council’s Winter Grant Scheme to help tackle food poverty.
The Dorchester group was awarded £5,000 to buy £15 Co-op vouchers, which were distributed to families in poverty through partners including social services, housing associations and Citizens Advice.
Dorchester Poverty Action chairman Dr Margaret Barker said of the scheme: “It restores relief and dignity to people who can, in temporary crisis, neither feed their family nor provide hot drinks and cooked food. Their strength to continue trying to resolve their financial problem will be boosted if they have provided and eaten hot meals without lapsing into despair.”
Friends of Bere Regis School used a £770 award to buy food parcels for parents at the school. “No child should be worrying about where the next meal is coming from,” said staff member Lucy Roberts. “Parents can relax knowing that their family is, at the very least, going to be able to eat. We hope that by providing some ideas for cooking, we will also encourage families to enjoy the food together, making and eating.”
One single mum of three told the school: “I was overwhelmed by all the things in the hampers! It was amazing the quantity and quality of all the products and I am very thankful and grateful for it all.”
Parents can relax knowing that their family is, at the very least, going to be able to eat.
The Bus Shelter Dorset, which provides somewhere to sleep for homeless people in a converted bus, used a £5,300 grant to feed rough sleepers who are usually supported by the charity in Weymouth but are in temporary hostel accommodation at Swanage Youth Hostel.
The Magdalen Environmental Trust was awarded £6,500 to buy a 100 square metre heated polytunnel at Magdalen Farm near Chard, to grow food so that it can supply foodbanks in the area.
“This polytunnel will help us grow large volumes of food more quickly, ripening earlier in the season, improving the range of foods given to families in desperate need, and thereby improving their diets. We expect this project to generate 500kg of fresh organic produce for donation in 2021,” said chief executive Giles Aspinall.
Open House in Shaftsbury will use its £7,500 grant towards the cost of a project manager to oversee its foodbank and housing and benefits advice service. “This will allow those living in poverty and hardship to have some of their basic needs met and for some to keep their housing,” said project worker Helen Beecham. “But additionally by helping them access benefits and advice, it helps them to move out of poverty in the long term.”
Friends of Stour Connect are using a £7,00 grant to deliver almost 200 meals in half-term and holidays to families of children entitled to free school meals as well as supplying hot food to the elderly in Sturminster Newton and surrounding villages.
Ringwood Foodbank has set up a new community larder with a £5,000 grant to provide free, healthy food for up to 75 people a week.
“it has permitted individuals to address, debts, put their heating on and more importantly improve the nutritional value of what they are putting on the plates of their families,” said trustee Chris Lee. “Particularly during this challenging time, it is allowing individuals to ensure that they have sufficient food to feed themselves for a week and easing some of their financial burdens.”
Dorset Community Foundation Director Grant Robson said: “We are very proud that Dorset Council decided to work with us because it knew that our knowledge of the area and the groups who work so hard across it meant that its money would go where it was needed most.
“As we receive feedback from the 18 groups we funded from this partnership it is clear that the council’s action has made life considerably better for hundreds of people and that’s a brilliant thing for us to be involved with.”