Leeds food banks need donations to continue support during coronavirus outbreak

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Dedicated teams running food banks across Leeds are doing all they can for their regular clients amid the coronavirus outbreak but say they need the public's support more than ever.

As stockpiling leaves supermarkets struggling to meet demand and many of their own staff and volunteers are forced to self-isolate, the challenge that lies ahead is a considerable one.

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However, they say the generosity still being shown through donations of food and money is helping to lift the spirits of those holding down the fort.

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Volunteers with the Leeds South and East Foodbank who are not self-isolating are keeping a 'no frills' service running.Volunteers with the Leeds South and East Foodbank who are not self-isolating are keeping a 'no frills' service running.
Volunteers with the Leeds South and East Foodbank who are not self-isolating are keeping a 'no frills' service running. | jpimedia

Nathanya Laurent, development manager at Leeds South and East Foodbank, said: "Right now we've got no more than five weeks' worth of food available at our main warehouse. That's to cover the branches that are going to be open at the moment and the others when they reopen.

"It would be fantastic if the public can help us as they have been doing."

The food bank has temporarily closed its services at Hunslet Methodist Church, Rothwell Fire Station and St John and St Barnabas Church in Belle Isle now.

Its sessions at St Cyprian's Church in Harehills, St Andrew's Church in Beeston and Drighlington Methodist Church will also be suspended as of Monday.

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Food banks across Leeds are doing what they can to support those who were already relying on their help before the coronavirus outbreak.Food banks across Leeds are doing what they can to support those who were already relying on their help before the coronavirus outbreak.
Food banks across Leeds are doing what they can to support those who were already relying on their help before the coronavirus outbreak. | jpimedia

But reduced services will continue to run at 4 Square Church, Osmondthorpe; St Paul's Church, Morley; St Richard's Church, Seacroft; Church of the Epiphany, Gipton, and St Cross Church, Middleton.

Nathanya said: "The majority of our volunteers are elderly, we don't want to put them at risk and also some of the churches have said we would rather you close.

"Because of the changing circumstances and changing guidance, we're running a 'no frills' service. A client would go to one of our food banks, take along their red food voucher and then that's exchanged for an emergency package of food."

The focus remains on supporting clients who were already experiencing food insecurity and hardship prior to the coronavirus outbreak, rather than people who are financially secure but now unable to get out to the shops.

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The Leeds North and West  Foodbank is also continuing to operate.The Leeds North and West  Foodbank is also continuing to operate.
The Leeds North and West Foodbank is also continuing to operate. | jpimedia

But those who find themselves in hardship for the first time in the coming weeks can still seek to referrals and access to the necessary vouchers through the usual channels.

With referrals more than likely to rise, it is crucial for this food bank and others in Leeds to maintain and build stocks as they always would.

"Even though we are supported by the Trussell Trust, we are a local standalone charity and funds donated to them stay with them," Nathanya said as she asked those who can help the Leeds South and East Foodbank to donate food or money directly.

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Jon Crowder making a donation to the Well Project in Normanton after raising more than 1,300 to support local food banks.Jon Crowder making a donation to the Well Project in Normanton after raising more than 1,300 to support local food banks.
Jon Crowder making a donation to the Well Project in Normanton after raising more than 1,300 to support local food banks. | other

She said: "The reason why we're asking for funds as well as food is so we can keep the operation going. The money will enable use to be able to pick up and drop off food, meet the running costs that are needed."

Items most needed are coffee, UHT milk, tinned fish, tinned meat, tinned vegetables, tinned potatoes, dilute juice, biscuits and loo roll. Those wishing to drop off food are asked to visit one of the branches during opening hours, rather than the warehouse.

Money can be donated online here, while information on the voucher referral system as well as food bank locations and opening times are available via its main website.

Leeds North and West Foodbank, which is also supported by the Trussell Trust, said: "We have had some extremely busy sessions this week. Vulnerable people are needing our support."

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It said it would continued to offer help wherever possible but it was difficult to know how things would change in the coming days and weeks.

Three of its branches were open for their regular sessions yesterday, although it was operating a 'behind closed doors' service without its usual support teams from other agencies.

Visit its website here for more information on how to give support.

Earlier this week, Holbeck Food Bank issued an urgent appeal for support as it struggles to get hold of some essential items from supermarkets.

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It said people had continued to be generous with donations but some items that it tries to give out with every delivery were now in short supply.

Appealing for support, Beeston and Holbeck councillor Angela Gabriel said: “People have been, and continue to be, incredibly generous but the Holbeck Food Bank is now running very low on some essentials.

"It would make such a difference if people could bring in products from the list so that everyone has the food they need to help get them through this difficult period of time.”

Key items needed include jam, carrots, peas, potatoes, Pot Noodles, Snack Shots, tomatoes, pasta sauce, tomato or vegetable soups, spaghetti loops, hot dogs, red kidney beans, biscuits, Fray Bentos pies, meat products, rice pudding and custard.

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Those wishing to make donations are asked to call 07710 467587 to make arrangements.

Meanwhile, the Right Choices Food Bank based at the Heart centre in Headingley has stopped taking donations from the public for the time being.

Volunteer founder Cheryl Kebede said: "Right Choices Food is volunteer-led and we are provided with food donations once a week, which is proving very promising. Where we are renting our room is still open and we are consulting with them on a daily basis.

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"We are eternally grateful to all the members of the public for their kind offers of small food donations however, we cannot no longer accept them due to the coronavirus."

While it is undoubtedly a worrying time for all of the food banks, there have also been acts of generosity and kindness in evidence this week.

The Leeds United Supporters' Trust works with two of the city's food banks to collect donations of goods at every home game via its Leeds Fans Foodbanks initiative.

As matches were cancelled last weekend, fans took up the Trust's appeal to donate money instead and more than £2,000 was raised in around 48 hours, bringing the total to more than £10,000.

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Pledging continued support, the Trust tweeted: "We’re going to continue fundraising for @LUFCFoodbank over the next few weeks, we will be also doing a online raffle - we’re looking for some money can’t buy prizes or if anyone has other items to donate please DM #leedsbringmore."

Elsewhere, one Wakefield man raised more than £1,300 to support local foodbanks in less than two days after sharing an appeal through his workplace and social media.

Jon Crowder, who works for performance marketing agency Journey Further swiftly collected more than £600 - and then his band, Ey Up Maiden, pledged match funding.

Subsequent donations have taken Jon’s total over £1,300 and he has now begun visiting a number of supermarkets and cash and carries to stock up on food, sanitary and pet items to donate to multiple local food banks.

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Packages have already been delivered to the Well Project in Normanton, Belle Isle Food Bank and St Catherine’s Church Centre in Wakefield.

He said: "Having visited multiple supermarkets and cash and carry stores, it’s clear to see the impact coronavirus is having with empty shelves everywhere. We’re choosing to spend the money raised over a period of time to ensure we don’t reduce supplies further, with donations going to multiple food banks around the Leeds and Wakefield area.

“If anyone is struggling to get hold of food or unable to go to the shops as a result of self-isolation, I’d urge them to get in touch and I’d be more than happy to help!”

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