PEOPLE struggling for food in Cheadle and the surrounding areas will be given a helping hand as plans are underway to set up a Foodbank in Cheadle.
The scheme was voted to go ahead during a public meeting at Cheadle Methodist Church in Charles Street last Wednesday, October 23.
A second meeting is taking place tomorrow, Thursday, October 31, at the methodist church at 7.30pm to move the project forward.
The meeting was led by retired priest Noel Clarke, who first came across Foodbanks in his native Australia and New Zealand during a holiday.
Mr Clarke said that churches in Cheadle and the surrounding areas, Cheadle U3A and local schools have been collecting food for the Stoke-on-Trent and Leek distribution centres for some time.
But, after it emerged that people from Cheadle were using these centres, it was felt that they needed to turn their attentions to getting one set up closer to home for the people in and around Cheadle who were in need of help and struggled to travel.
He said: "What happens if a family has emergency problems in our area and no food, shouldn't we be doing something here first? "There's a lot of misunderstanding and misconceptions about Foodbanks and it's not just down to the economic downturn, things can go wrong at any time, and local people are going hungry.
"The problem's not going away, it's getting worse; Red Cross recognises a dramatic rise in those using Foodbanks and it is providing winter food for the first time in the UK this year."
Speaking at the meeting Anne Danks, development officer for the Midlands with the Trussell Trust, which set up the Foodbank scheme first in Bulgaria and then in the UK around 10 years ago, said: "The need is greater than we first imagined and it's fantastic to have a sense in a community that there's something we can do together for the people in the greatest need.
"10 years ago we didn't think of poverty and charity as being associated with the UK and tended to think it was developing world issue.
"There are more than 380 Foodbanks projects across the UK and we are currently setting up three a week.
"Being a national organisation we can gather data from across the country and we have clear statistics to give us a national picture of the real level of poverty, giving us a voice on behalf of those who may not have one themselves to tell the Government what life is really like for them."
Last year almost 350,000 people used Foodbanks and figures just for the first six months of this year have already exceeded that.
The majority of those were not "benefit scroungers", but people who had fallen foul of changes in the welfare system, meaning that payments have been delayed, and working people struggling to make ends meet as living costs rise, but wages stay the same.
Anne made it clear that Foodbanks are not a "sticking plaster" and that anyone using the scheme has to be referred by a professional including the CAB, doctors, children centres, social workers, church pastoral workers, schools, care centres and probation services.
Once referred families will then be given enough food to feed them for three days, as well as advice and guidance.
Food can be donated to the Foodbank, or volunteers can carry out collections at supermarkets.
Pat Greatbach, manager from Cheadle's CAB, said that a total of 32 adults and 35 children from Cheadle received help from Leek and Stoke-on-Trent Foodbanks in four months.
Of those 25 adults and 26 children received food from Stoke-on-Trent between May and September, and seven adults and nine children had food from Leek from June to September.
She said: "We are experiencing difficult times in our area with many facing high costs of travel and low rates of pay, combined with increasing costs of fuel and food, and the situation is getting worse. Times are getting harder for everyone."
Cheadle’s town mayor councillor Ian Plant said: “I was pleasantly surprised by the presentation given; until it is put over to you in this form you have no idea of how serious a problem it is, not just locally but by the amount of food banks that have been set up in the country.
"You would not have thought that Britain would have to set up these kind of facilities and it just goes to show that things are bad and will get worse if more of these Foodbanks are not set up by volunteers.
“I would hope that if the Cheadle Foodbank gets off the ground volunteers would be available to distribute and collect the food to be given to residents in need.”