Foodbanks in Rural Areas

Foodbanks are very much in the public arena at the moment. Here we look at very different approaches being taken by two churches in Rural Ministries' network. One working with the Trussell Trust and another running an independent scheme.

Steve Williamson, member of St Austell Light and Life and their foodbank project manager explains their solution to the rural foodbank challenge.

The St Austell foodbank was set up in 2010 under the Trussell Trust network. We are very grateful that we had positive support from the local council to start a foodbank and we have gained credibility in our community over the last three and a half years. Whilst serving the people of St Austell effectively through local agencies, we found that a large proportion of our clients live in villages around the town and accessing the foodbank wasn't easy for them. Approximately 6% of the clients come from the Par St Blazey area and nearly a third come from the 'clay villages'.

A good number of our clients have walked the few miles into town to get a voucher and food. Others rely on lifts, cycle or have to use public transport which is costly. Stories like this initiated some data analysis, and sparked the vision to start satellite distribution points to provide food nearer to those who need help. Our foodbank manger identified two outlying areas for these satellites and made enquiries with churches in these areas that were already supportive to the project by having food collection points in their churches. Following enquiries and discussions with Par St Marys Methodist Church the first satellite was established in their church buildings. This is run by members of that congregation and the Par area, but the food is supplied by the St Austell foodbank.

More recently a second satellite began in Roche, a village about six miles from St Austell.

St Austell foodbank collects and processes the food donations centrally and then distribute it to the St Austell centre and satellites. The foodbank also processes all the vouchers centrally and administers the whole group. However the satellites need to be able to be self-supporting with a premises and volunteers.

We have found that it is essential to have more agencies with vouchers in these areas otherwise clients need to come into the town to obtain a food voucher from one of our local agencies which defeats the object in getting food nearer to those who need our help. This may appear obvious but was something we missed in the initial plan. We are working on increasing the agencies in these areas and anticipate that in time, out of town agencies will supply vouchers to people in those areas and these satellites will be used more effectively.

Another way we have reached those living in outlying areas is by delivering food bags to their door ourselves. We have not been able to invest the time and man-power to do this regularly and have only done such deliveries in exceptional circumstances such as for a person with mobility issues. However we take each client on a case by case basis trying to match their needs with our resources.