Support from one of the north east’s largest housing associations has helped to kickstart a rural community foodbank.
Formed less than six weeks ago, Weardale Foodbank has been given £500 from County Durham Housing Group’s ‘group grant’ scheme after volunteers at a long-established toddler group in Stanhope discovered that mothers and their children were frequently turning up mid-morning without having eaten.
After deciding to take matters into their own hands, the handful of volunteers who co-ordinate the foodbank have already helped families stretching from Wolsingham up to St John’s Chapel.
Local doctors, police and even the MP for the area have already begun referring vulnerable people to the foodbank. Because of the rural nature of the area, volunteers also distribute food packages direct to households and have found other voluntary groups in the area very willing to help with transport.
Claire Maddison from the Community Investment Team at County Durham Housing Group, said: “The strength of communities in Weardale should never be underestimated. Volunteers found a real problem and, in no time at all, decided that they could do something about it.
“Rural communities have their own issues and it’s too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that poverty and the housing crisis are only urban problems. Our ‘group grant’ programme was specifically designed to help all types of community and this project is already making a huge difference.”
Weardale Foodbank volunteer, Josephine Hayes, said: “When we found out that mothers and their children were regularly coming to our toddler group without food we were keen to do something to help. We’re just ordinary people who want to make a difference so we’ve kept the foodbank very friendly. We don’t ask people to fill in lots of forms. We don’t want to create any barriers.
“We’ve found so much good will in the community. Lots of organisations are already referring people to us and we’ve had donations from across Weardale, and one shop in Stanhope has already agreed to host a donation box for us too.”
More information on the group grant scheme is available here.