The growth in foodbanks shows we care about each other but also raises questions about why they exist at all, the Archbishop of Wales said today (Feb 27)).
Dr Barry Morgan said he was both happy and sad to be opening a foodbank in a church in Barry. St Mary’s Church is now the second distribution centre in the town and the fourth in the county run by Vale Foodbank. The town centre church will open every Friday afternoon for people to collect parcels of donated food, and also have a cup of tea, chat and find advice. It has been opened in response to rising demand and will be manned by volunteers from the parish and the community.
The Archbishop said that while he was pleased to see people helping their neighbours and proud of the church taking a lead role in that, the need for foodbanks was a sad reflection on society as a whole.
He said, “I am glad to be here but I am sad to be here. I am glad because it is tremendous that in our society there are still people who care enough about others to do something practical about it and to bring food to centres like this. And I am very proud of the fact that the church has been in the vanguard of helping people who are down on their luck – because if the church of God doesn’t care for their neighbours then heaven help us. Unless there is health and happiness for everyone there isn’t health and happiness for anyone because we are all part of one society.
“I am sad because such a thing ought not to be needed. What is it about our society where people are so desperate that they have nowhere else to turn to? This country is, in comparative terms, a very rich country and here are people who are so desperate as to come to a food bank. Those of us who can afford food can’t begin to imagine what it must be like for people who are at their wits’ end because they don’t know where their next meal is coming from or how they are going to pay their bills. That’s a reflection on all of us, on Britain as a society – we are a broken society in some ways. So alongside my pride and gladness is this terrible sadness about what is happening in our society.”
Vale Foodbank co-ordinator, Susan Lloyd-Seby said St Mary’s Church was chosen as a central location following support from its Rector, Fr Ben Andrews. She said, “We are delighted that the Archbishop was able to join us to open our new distribution centre in St Mary’s church.
“However, it’s very sad that we are in the seventh wealthiest nation in the world and need another foodbank in Barry.”
Since the foodbank service was set up more than 57,000kg of food has been distributed to those in need. Ms Lloyd-Selby said that the amount of donations they had received was “absolutely incredible” and she was “overwhelmed by the generosity of local people”.
She added that recently there had been a 40 per cent increase in referrals due to a range of reasons, including low income, debt and benefit payment delays, and that they had now fed more than 6,000 local people in crisis.
“We are continuing to see an increase in the number of people referred to us for support; particularly young people who cannot find employment and hard-working people on low income who have been hit by the bedroom tax,” she said.
“We regularly see people queuing to get into the food distribution centre in Barry and our volunteers hear some heart-breaking stories – last week we supported a young pregnant mum who had been forced to give up work due to health problems and because of delays in her benefit payments she had no money to buy food.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for people to access emergency food support and are very grateful to Father Ben Andrews for his support in enabling us to open a new centre in St Mary’s Church, Holton Road, Barry.”
Fr Ben said, “Barry is a very mixed community and there is sadly an increasing need for the Foodbank’s work. St. Mary’s is centrally located in the heart of Barry town and the centre at St. Mary’s is expected to be busy. We are delighted in the parish to be able to offer the church as a distribution centre, to be able offer practical Christian help, and to make a positive difference to people who are in need.”
St Mary’s distribution centre will be open on Friday afternoons from 2-3pm. The three other Vale foodbanks are in Barry, Dinas Powys and Llantwit Major. For more information For more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07879 562077.
The photo attached shows (l-r) Archbishop Barry, Susan Lloyd Selby, Fr Ben Andrews and Jane Hutt at St Mary’s Church.