THE Leek and District Foodbank has been officially opened amid figures showing hundreds of people are “in crisis”.
The foodbank, which operates out of Leek Pentecostal Church in West Street, first opened its doors on June 18.
During the first 13 weeks of operation the foodbank has served 2,331 meals to 259 people, including 123 children. This has led to two-and-a-half tonnes of food being distributed.
Opening the foodbank, Leek Town Mayor John Fisher, said: “It is a mark of civilisation how we treat people.
“We can’t expect government to do everything, but in the 21st century people in our town are going hungry. The Government must prioritise. Many people have shown compassion as this is a crisis organisation. Already 259 people have been helped and winter is approaching.
“People are coming in from Leek, Cheadle and Biddulph because of benefit delays, benefit changes and because of low income. We have to thank the volunteers for setting it up.
"Without these volunteers there would be no food bank.”
Volunteer Georgina Arapi spoke of her role in the foodbank. She said: “I find that people in the UK going without food is astonishing.
“I felt if I could give two hours a week for people it would be good.
As you talk to people it is great to know you have made a difference.
“Helping to provide people with food in a non-judgemental way is good. It is also good to chat and help people.”
Team leader Bob Eaton added: “One man came in with his son desperate for food as they had none, and he used to be a chef. He has now got a job and said with his first pay packet he will bring in a bag of food as he was so grateful to us.
"A mum with two children needed food as she was desperate with the benefit changes. Now we have helped her and she has managed to get a part-time job.
“One man came in, again desperate for food, but had no referral.
We do not give out food without a referral and voucher from an agency. He went to the CAB and then came back. Now he has been helped to get a house and is completing a CV for jobs. After help people can start feeling worthy again.”
Welcoming visitors to the ceremony, Ian Smith, Elder and treasurer at Leek Pentecostal Church and co-ordinator of the foodbank, said: “The idea was first thought of about two-and-a-half years ago.
"We had correspondence from a pastor, originally from Stoke-on- Trent, who had started one up in the North East. He suggested that we look at the idea for Leek. However it was felt it was not the right time.
"Last year it was again said that Leek needed the facility so we contacted the Trussell Trust, which help to set up foodbanks, and also Churches Together Following a feasibility study it was agreed to go-ahead. However we required money, scales, and a computer and printer.
"The town rallied together and we have never looked back. We are here to help people in crisis.”
The foodbank is open on Tuesday and Friday from 10am to noon for people donating food and 12.30pm to 2.30pm for people exchanging food vouchers.