Feed a family campaign: Behind the scenes at west Leeds foodbank

West Leeds Food Bank: David Henderson (left) and Jim Simms load up the van.SH1001646d...21st July 2014 Picture by Simon Hulme
West Leeds Food Bank: David Henderson (left) and Jim Simms load up the van.SH1001646d...21st July 2014 Picture by Simon Hulme
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The west Leeds foodbank at Sunnybank Mills is a hive of activity - with volunteers of all ages and backgrounds bustling about, weighing food, sorting expiry dates, stacking shelves, and loading the delivery van.

Monday is the busiest day of the week, according to foodbank co-ordinator Lucy Pitkin. “What happens is people perhaps realise on a Friday night that money hasn’t come, or a bill comes in and after the weekend, on Monday, they will try and speak to a support agency to get some help. When it’s a desperate situation, the support workers will call us.”

So the volunteers pack up bags for the agencies to pick up, trying to create balanced nutritional meals from the tins available.

But the shelves carry as many empty boxes as full, and Lucy admits to having sleepless nights about trying to feed west Leeds’ families.

While baked beans and tinned tomatoes are plentiful, there is just one box of tinned potatoes, one box of tinned veg and one of tinned fish.

Lucy adds: “Cereal we are also always low on and we get through a lot of soup. We’ve only a few boxes of instant mash - that’s brilliant for someone who’s only got a kettle. You’d be surprised by how many are in that situation, if they haven’t got the money to pay for gas.

“Most foodbanks run out of tinned meat, UHT milk, fruit juice and sugar.”

And as desperate as the banks are for food, they are also desperate for volunteers - with another 150 needed in west Leeds alone.

Jim Simms, 65, of Armley, juggles work as a self-employed industrial relations consultant with volunteering at the foodbank. He said: “I’ve been lucky and employed all my life so wanted to give something back. You see extreme poverty, for a mix of reasons - benefits cut for a reason and it takes a week to put back right, or sometimes people have traumas and no support system so they get disorganised.”

Mum Victoria Higgins, who was helping with her daughter Sophie, 11, said she is always touched by the community’s generosity. “You ask someone to put an extra tin in their trolley and they come out and give you a whole shopping bag.”

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