An award-winning Conwy food bank has been saved from closure by a liferaft of generous donations following an appeal by North Wales’s policing chief.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones highlighted the perils faced by food banks after hearing that the Llanfairfechan Food Bank could be forced to shut because of restrictions brought in to tackle the coronavirus crisis.
He called for food banks to be made a special case after learning that just days after handing the Llanfairfechan volunteers a £2,500 cheque a decision by supermarkets to limit all shoppers to a maximum of three cans of an item could close them down.
Now Penny Andow, one of the organisers of the food bank, said the response to Mr Jones’s intervention has been overwhelming with donations of food, storage and cash flooding in.
She said: “We have switched to home delivery for social distancing reasons and people have been so generous that we can continue and that’s down to the Commissioner highlighting our plight.
“The response from the public to the coverage we received has been fantastic and has included a donation from a wholesale warehouse, local pubs and cafes, the use of a lock-up shop to store and cash gifts including someone who gave me £100 when I was walking the dog.
“People have been amazing and thanks to their generosity we were able to supply 22 food parcels last week and to be able to continue for the foreseeable future.”
Ms Andow, a member of Llanfairfechan and Conwy County Councils who helped set up the food bank in 2017, had feared that social distancing rules would prevent them opening their distribution point at the Church Hall and then the ban on bulk buying would mean not enough stock.
She added: “We feared supermarket restrictions would mean we couldn’t buy enough goods for our customers because we used to spend £200 every week with ASDA but last week we only received £50-worth because of restrictions caused by panic buying.
“But the kindness of so many people has meant we’ve been able to meet the needs of people who are really struggling and will continue to do so”
Arfon Jones said: “Organisations like the Llanfairfechan Food Bank carry out a fantastic service and I was delighted to be able to give them the award.
“It would have been tragic if they hadn’t been able to continue but the way the community has rallied round to help just shows how important they are and how much their work is appreciated.
“But other food banks still need help and for supermarkets to recognise the special need they meet in these difficult times when it is more important than ever that we all come together.
“They are desperately needed by vulnerable people and hard-up families but now many could be forced out of operation so where will the hungry get these food essentials in future?
“I understand the supermarkets finding themselves between a rock and a hard place – they’re trying to address panic buying but this is having unintended consequences for charities like food banks.
“They should be able to carry letters identifying themselves as accredited food banks so they can buy a reasonable quantity without stripping the shelves of all stock.”
Ms Andow said: “We set up the food bank after it was reported to us that a local family of five were actually scavenging the recycling food bins.
“It’s run very successfully since then but the numbers have been up and we were almost overwhelmed at the Church Hall where we were grateful for the help of local PCSO Sara Owen.
“I think the role of food banks will have to be taken on by the Army while this crisis continues.”
Their average food parcel usually contains tins of pasta sauce, peas, carrots, soup, beans, rice pudding, custard, steak pie, fish and ham, packets of cereal, rice and dried mashed potato, tea and coffee, and dog and cat food for pet owners.
They received a Your Community Your Choice award from the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner earlier this month as one of 20 organisations across North Wales which shared over £45,000 in grants after being voted for by the public.
It was the seventh year of the awards scheme and much of over £300,000 handed out to deserving causes in that time has been recovered through the Proceeds of Crime Act, using cash seized from offenders with the rest coming from the Police and Crime Commissioner.
The scheme is aimed at organisations who pledge to run projects to tackle anti-social behaviour, help the vulnerable and combat crime and disorder in line with the priorities within the Police Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan.
For more information on the work of the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office go to https://www.northwales-pcc.gov.uk/en/home.aspx