Marc Reeves is editor-in-chief of the Birmingham Post and Mail – and the newly-rebranded BirminghamLive website. In December, he and his team moved back to the city centre – right in the heart of the Colmore Business District, in fact. Here, Marc sets out why he’s asking his new neighbours to help launch a major new campaign to support the city’s foodbanks.
Birmingham’s foodbanks are busier than ever – and that’s not good news.
Urgent action is needed to ensure they can cope with demand, which is why BirminghamLive is launching a major appeal this Spring – and I desperately need our new neighbours in the Colmore BID to help.
The number of ordinary families turning to foodbanks has increased exponentially in the past year, and changes to the benefits system coupled with cuts to public services means volunteers face at least a 30% increase in 2018.
People struggling on low incomes, sometimes trying to hold down multiple jobs, can find their fragile household budgets shattered by the smallest problem. This leaves them facing weeks without any money at all, and this is when they have to turn to foodbanks for emergency help.
Only those most in need can be helped – and they have to be referred by an external agency such as the Citizens’ Advice Bureau or a social worker. Far from people routinely turning up at foodbanks for casual handouts, the people you’ll actually meet there are in dire emergency need of very specific help.
Volunteer foodbank workers help to put together packs of support that meet the needs of a specific person or family. Basic foodstuffs are most common of course, but families in need also receive toiletries, feminine hygiene products and even light bulbs.
The good news is that most people only need to use a foodbank once or twice – showing they fulfil their role in providing emergency help when other sources of support aren’t available. The bad news, though, is that more and more people are finding themselves in this position in the first place, and there’s a real danger that foodbanks won’t be able to keep up with demand.
I visited the B30 foodbank in Cotteridge, and was impressed with the efficiency and focus of the operation, but also appalled that so many people needed their help.
So BirminghamLive is launching #BrumFeeds, a major campaign to help our foodbanks make it through the next few months.
We want to collect 100 tonnes of food – that’s around 100,000 meals. This represents about a month’s worth of stock in the city’s foodbanks.
We’ll be collecting money too, which the foodbanks will use to buy food.
The appeal launches formally at the end of April, with an event in Cathedral Square, but before then, I want to enlist the help of our new neighbours here in Colmore Business District.
To get the launch off to the perfect start, and to demonstrate exactly what we’re asking Birmingham to do, it would be great to kick it off with a mass collection. So, if you’d like to get involved, please start one now in your office or workplace.
Then, on the day of the launch (TBD), please come with colleagues to Cathedral Square along with all the items you’ve collected.
Hopefully there’ll be enough to make a really good picture and get the appeal off to a really good start!
If you’re interested in taking part, we can support you with lists of foods and other items to collect (no fresh food please!), and some posters to put up in your office.
– we’ll be happy to report your support!