Hungry residents throughout Monmouthshire are receiving nutritional aid thanks to the volunteers, churches and organisations that support four major food banks. Donations come in from all over the county, which are then packaged and handed out at local distribution centres.
Contrary to what some Welsh politicians have described in protest, this is not just a free handout that perpetuates apathy and homelessness. It is quite the opposite.
While the aid is available to anyone who needs it, recipients must first agree to meet with a professional who can make a referral. Each of these organisations partners with job centres, schools, Monmouthshire One Stop Shop, health care professionals and housing associations. Even money advisers routinely issue vouchers to their clients to give emergency food assistance.
A voucher is a redeemable coupon that can be swapped for a parcel of donated food items. Each parcel contains enough to meet a family’s dietary needs for the next three days. It can be a great boost to a struggling household when work hours were cut or if some hardship causes them to be short of funds until the next income check arrives.
Local residents (homeowners, tenants and homeless) are encouraged to request assistance when hardship is causing a serious detriment to the family. They can contact one of the partner agencies directly to set up an appointment where a voucher can be issued. Each organisation also provides a contact telephone where enquiries may be made, such as for hours at distribution centres or for information on partners that can provide the needed referral and issue the vouchers.
Caldicot Food Bank was initially funded through a grant by Raven House Trust (of Newport). It was created through support of Caldicot Churches Together. This organisation gives food assistance to families of Caerwent, Caldicot, Magor, Portskewett, Rogiet, Sudbrook and Undy. Similar to other organisations, donations are distributed in parcels that are designed to feed an average family for about three days. One advantage though is that up to three parcels may be obtained by each client, thereby providing nutrition for up to nine days. Anyone who is feeling the pinch from hardship is encouraged to enquire about obtaining assistance. They may telephone Caldicot Food Bank at 07925 285994.
Also providing support to local organisations is Trussell Trust. This national charity offers administrative support and has assisted with the creation of three local affiliates:
- Abergavenny Foodbank maintains hours a couple of days weekly for pickups to be made. This organisation was created with the support of Cornerstone Evangelical Church, which is also the source of many of the volunteers that staff the centre. The church first opened in 2004, and they succeeded in launching the food bank in 2012 after gathering donations for many months. The facility is located on Lion Street, which is also the site of the distribution centre. For enquiries about pickup times and community partners that issue the vouchers, residents may call 07534 318670.
- Chepstow Foodbank has set up three distribution centres to meet local need. This helps those who cannot easily make it to a central centre or who need flexibility on pickup times due to a job. Enquiries about pickups as well as referring partners that can issue vouchers may be made by calling 07931 911869. Churches Together is one of the driving forces for the service, providing both donations and volunteers. Sites have been established at these locations:
- The Bridge Church in Bulwark Industrial Estate (Unit 1a Critchcraft Buildings).
- Chepstow Baptist Church on Lower Church Street.
- The Town Council Offices on The Gatehouse High Street.
- Monmouth & District Foodbank operates from Monmouth Baptist Church which is located on 3 Monk Street. This organisation has been giving out donated food on Fridays since inception. Area residents who are in receipt of a voucher may stop by the church to obtain food parcels. Enquiries may also be made by calling 07855 927064.
The support of the churches and organisations throughout Monmouthshire has been fantastic. Together they encourage neighbours to provide the necessary donations to feed our county’s poor and other families that have experienced recent hardships.