My name is Liz Wills, I am a parishioner and a Development Worker for Caritas Westminster which as you know is the Social Action Department of the Diocese of Westminster.
Since the beginning of the Pandemic in April 2020, our Parish in partnership with Feed Up Warm Up which is the local homeless charity that has been operating out of our Parish for nearly 3 years, decided we needed to respond quickly to the impact that the pandemic was having on families in our local community.
We teamed up with the school referral teams to address the need and identify families that had been directly and financially impacted by Covid-19. This resulted in the creation of the Hitchin Food Delivery Service.
My team of trusted volunteers who have been operating out of the parish hall every Thursday have made up and delivered over 3000 family parcels which have fed an average of 10,000 adults and children during this period.
We now feel ready to move from a Hand Out to a Hand Up model
Bishop Paul will be joining us on the 29th October to open a “My Local Pantry” which is a wonderful franchise model deigned by Churches Against Poverty. This is a new social supermarket which will be called the “Hitchin Pantry”. It will provide healthy food and resilience support to the local community. We will be operating out of Scout Hut twice a week.
Our Hitchin Pantry will run as a community shop, with members paying £4 a week to access at least £20 of fresh and nutritious food. Members will shop and choose their food with dignity and the Pantry will allow the community to pay in together to stretch their budgets further. This will help people to save up to £780 a year which can go towards paying off bills and buying necessities for their families. These savings, as well as the signposting to advice that the pantry will provide, will support people to become more resilient to shocks in their life and help them avoid falling into crisis situations.
Please see click to see the “Social Impact” report produced by My Local Pantry which will help you understand why we feel this is the right model to use.
The shop will be operating from the Scout Hall Opening Days: Friday 2-4pm & Saturday 1- 3pm
- Set Up Teams & clear up teams including food and H&S checks
- Drivers to collect food from supermarkets, Fareshare & Felix Project
- Admin staff
- Sales Assistants
- Shift leaders
- Regular monthly monetary donations
- Regular food donations (See below for list)
If you are interested in supporting or volunteering at the Pantry please email me directly. If you would like to volunteer please ensure that you let me know which role you are interested in and I will email you a volunteer application form. email@example.com
Pantry background & info
The Pantry will also be a place for the community to come together and will tackle isolation caused by the pandemic. As it is a member led and a member funded project the Pantry will be a sustainable way to support the community going forward and will replace the large scale food relief that met emergency need during the pandemic.
A pantry is different from a foodbank, or food parcel scheme in several key ways:
- Member-run: Pantries are run along co-operative lines, by and for their members, many of the volunteers who run the Pantry are members too.
- Open to all: Membership is open to anyone local, with no requirement to be referred by a professional or other third party.
- Choice: You can choose what you want, using a colour-coded system to ensure that this includes a balance of fresh, packaged and higher-value foods.
- Quality: Your Local Pantry insists on good quality food, including fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen and chilled food, including meat and dairy products, alongside the usual supplies of tins and packets. The Pantry has the look and feel of a little local shop with uniformed staff who manage the store by hand-held technology. This elevates the experience by reducing stigma and calms anxiety.
- No time limits: membership is not time-limited; members can choose to come every week (or not) for as long as they want.
These elements result in a range of benefits for the individual users and the local community:
- Saving money on grocery bills: Members who visit weekly can save up to £780 a year on their shopping, which they can use to pay off other bills, put into savings, or use to treat their families
- Saving food from landfill: By working with charities such as The Felix Project and FareShare, the Pantry prevents food going to waste and ensures it reaches those who need it
- Enhancing nutrition and food variety: Through a commitment to offering fresh and frozen, chilled and seasonal produce
- Knitting neighbourhoods together: Through bringing people together for the weekly shop, where people can get to know each other over a cup of tea together, and access signposting to other services and support
- Developing employability: Through a range of volunteering opportunities, developing skills through systems governing stock and software, payments, communication and environmental health.
Food Donation List (in date)
- Family boxes of cereal
- Family bottles of squash
- Tins of tomatoes
- Stock cubes/stock pots
- Packets of cheese sauce
- Pasta Sauces & Curry Sauces
- Tins of Tuna
- Tins of Corn Beef
- Tins of sweetcorn
- Mayo, ketchup & brown sauce
- Enchilada & Fajita kits
- Biscuits, Crisps & cereal bars
- Fresh Food
- Fresh Eggs (free range)
- Fresh blocks of cheddar cheese
- Fresh sliced ham/chicken
- Cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, onions, peppers, cauliflower
If you are donating fresh food it will need to be dropped off on a Wednesday evening between 5-7.30pm or a Friday between 12-2pm so it can go straight in the fridge or contact me directly to arrange a drop off.
I will put a box in the foyer for the ambient donations
3/6/2021 Foodbank newsletter May 2021
12/3/2021 Food provision figures
13th July 2020 – 4th March 2021
4230 people have been fed – 1587 adults & 2643 children.
In the same time period FUWU have provided hot meals and food parcels to 1050 people.
Weekly Family Food Parcels 3rd Dec – 4th March
3rd Dec – 116 people fed – 43 adults & 73 children
10 Dec – 120 people fed – 45 adults & 75 children
17 Dec – 125 people fed – 46 adults & 79 children
24 Dec – 95 people fed – 35 hampers – 35 adults & 60 children
31st Dec – 102 people fed – 37 adults & 65 children
6 Jan – 119 people fed – 40 adults & 79 children
14 Jan – 128 people fed – 44 adults & 84 children
21 Jan – 117 people fed – 43 adults & 74 children
28 Jan – 120 people fed – 42 adults & 78 children
4 Feb – 128 people fed – 46 adults & 82 children
11 Feb – 128 people fed – 48 adults & 80 children
18 Feb – 111 people fed – 41 adults & 70 children
22 Feb – 110 people fed – 45 adults & 65 children
4 March – 126 people fed – 50 adults & 76 children
Total 1645 people fed – 605 adults & 1040 children
Feed Up Warm Up Weekly Food Parcels
3rd Dec – 4th March – Hitchin only
Average 30 service users a week = 420 food parcels and 420 hot meals
10 volunteers have had their first vaccine
20 service users booked for the vaccine during this evenings drop in service – GP visiting the Church
North Herts Food Provision Christmas supply
Hitchin and Letchworth families receive essential food hampers at Christmas and beyond
Volunteers in Hitchin delivered over 300 presents to children last Christmas. The presents were delivered on Christmas Eve along with two hampers of luxury food to 36 families in Hitchin and Letchworth by local organisation Feed Up Warm Up, in partnership with Catholic charity Caritas Westminster. This project was part of an ongoing programme to support families who have been seriously impacted by the Covid Crisis, and already in 2021 the numbers seeking help have increased dramatically.
Throughout December more than 20 volunteers – including England Goalkeeper David James – put together parcels which included toys and gifts for parents and children, and all the requirements for a Christmas dinner. This was made possible thanks to the North Hertfordshire District Council who provided supermarket vouchers, Caritas Westminster and local residents who donated gifts and luxury food items. Local shops, Morrisons and Wilkinsons organised a toy appeal to help fill the Christmas sacks.
The parcels were received with gratitude by the families who would otherwise have struggled to provide Christmas presents and the usual treats for their children. One mother sent this thank you message, typical of many others:
“Thank you all for the amazing treats and gifts you gave us, not only for today but throughout most of this year. We really appreciate everything you have done and are beyond grateful to have had a somewhat normal Christmas thank to all your help and generosity. Have a blessed Christmas and God bless you all.”
Many of the families who received these hampers have been supported since May 2020 by Feed Up Warm Up, a homelessness outreach project, in collaboration with Caritas Westminster and the Hitchin Food Provision Team, a local initiative set up in response to the Covid Crisis. Between May and September Feed Up Warm Up delivered more than 1900 nutritious hot meals to these families, as well as food parcels which continue to be provided for an average of 40 families a week with referrals growing.
Caritas Westminster, which is involved in a wide range of social action projects across North London and Hertfordshire, has supported Feed Up Warm Up’s work with the Homeless since the project began two years ago. Liz Wills, Caritas Development Worker told us “The difference now is the number of families with children who are coming forward needing support. These are people who may have never needed help before but who have seen a dramatic cut in their income since the coronavirus lockdown”
Liz went on to talk about the effect of the current lockdown “Already this month we are supporting fourteen more families and we have now extended our support to people in Stevenage. And this is just around half of the families who have approached the Hitchin Food Provision Team for help”
Caritas Westminster have seen a similar picture across the Westminster diocese where they work. Elsewhere the charity has provided supermarket vouchers worth nearly £175,000 to 122 schools and church groups since last March. This has been a lifeline for over 6,000 people from around 1800 households.
As winter approaches and the effects of coronavirus continue to trap people in poverty, food banks in the Trussell Trust network are forecast to give out a staggering six emergency food parcels every minute. This is not right.
Our new research, carried out with Heriot Watt University, estimates 846,000 parcels will need to be provided by our network to people in crisis during October to December 2020 – a 61% increase on last year. And an additional 670,000 people will be destitute by the end of the year, meaning they cannot afford essentials like housing, energy, and food.
15/5/2020 Foodbank Update May2020v2
Christmas Hampers report
For full report click here 2019 Christmas Hamper Overview-1
Click on link for full details North Herts Food Provision Timetable
Our Lady’s parish is host to the Foodbank serving Letchworth, Hitchin and Baldock. Our Scout Hall is open for people requiring food in return for vouchers, on Tuesdays and Fridays 10am – 12pm.
The church also holds supplies of vouchers for eligible clients who need a supply of food.
The foodbank always requires supplies of food – for more details of current shortages please see the Foodbank website or click below. There is a new initiative to support families who receive free school meals, over the summer period and lists of items needed are on the Child summer lunch link below.
For the latest newsletter please click here Newsletter Feb 2020