‘They say a dog is not just for Christmas, and it’s the same with the food bank.’
Volunteers at Leyland’s food bank have been overwhelmed with support this festive season, but warn that it’s the New Year when families, and the food bank, really start to struggle.
Leyland Churches Together manage the food bank, collecting donations from all of the churches to be sorted into parcels at Leyland St Mary’s RC Parish Church in Broadfield Drive.
Parish administrator Lesley Raven said: “We have been swamped with donations from companies in the run-up to Christmas, which is great.
“People have been giving to the food bank instead of taking part in Secret Santa, and there was also a collection at Tesco which really helped.
“It means we’ve been able to give families two parcels instead of one, but realistically, that will still only last a few days.
“We’re asking that once people are over the financial strain of Christmas and the New Year, spare a thought for the food bank.”
When the Guardian visited the food bank a couple of weeks ago, there were stacks of boxes full of food from generous organisations community groups and residents waiting to be handed out to those in need.
Lesley explained that people also donate treats as well as basic food at this time of year.
“People are conscious that they’re buying lots of nice things for their own families, and they hate the thought that some have a rotten time,” she said.
“They bring things like chocolates, mince pies and Christmas puddings to make someone’s else’s Christmas special.
“But it’s the New Year when families really start to struggle, because they tend to stretch themselves at Christmas.
“It’s very hard to see your children teased for not having a new bike or skate board, it’s peer pressure.
“The tins we’ve got now will last about six weeks, so we should be ok for January. It’s normally February when we start to struggle again.”
Earlier this year, the church was having to dip into church funds to buy more food for the bank, because demand was so high.
Lesley says even more people are turning to the bank for help now, but with increased awareness of the work volunteers do there, more donations are also coming through the door.
“We’re seeing about 70 families a week now, which is more than this time last year,” she explained.
“We’re not having to use church funds anymore, and some money has been raised throughout December from various Christmas charity events, so that will help us for a little while.”
She added: “We’ve seen quite a lot of new faces this year.
“One mum had six children under 12, and we were helping her for months. I haven’t seen her for a while so I’m really hoping she’s back on her feet now.
“The main problem in Leyland is unemployment, and even those who find work are often on minimum wage.
“It’s hard for a small business to pay the living wage, so a lot of people are on minimum wage or zero-hours contracts.
“Even if they get a job, it gives them dignity, but then it really messes up their benefits.
“People can be worse off in work than when they were on benefits.”
Husband and wife Robert and Eileen Haydock have been lending a helping hand to the Leyland food bank for four years.
Eileen said: “People are desperate, but they don’t always think to ask for help.
“It must be soul-destroying, but everyone does their little bit to help.”
To donate to the food bank, go along to St Mary’s Church any day of the week.