THE official launch of Cheadle's foodbank took place at Cheadle Methodist Church Hall in Chapel Street, Cheadle, on Thursday, May 15.
Cheadle Foodbank opened in January at the Guild Hall in Tape Street.
The official opening was delayed to allow time to get the required amount of food, establish that there was a need, form a committee, recruit volunteers and donors, find premises, get compliance from Foodbank founders The Trussell Trust, and set in place frontline care professionals to carry out assessments and distribute vouchers.
Volunteer and co-ordinator Reverend Noel Clarke said: "It's so nice to see people I now consider friends take on the responsibility in their community. We are very lucky to have some very helpful churches as part of Cheadle Churches Together supplying weekly food contributions, alongside Cheadle U3A, local schools, businesses and individuals.
"And if we get too much food it's ok, because we have neighbours right on our doorstep in Leek, Stoke and Newcastle-Under--Lyme who struggle to get as much as they can.
"We're also lucky to have premises which enable us to distribute and store food, and thanks to Father Sandy from St Giles' RC Church for the use of the Guild Hall.
"Thanks to Elite Bathrooms and local joiners Tony Lovatt and Gordon Shaw who gave up their time free to help kit out the premises. Thanks also to Roy and Glenys Hedges for their IT support, and New Haden Pumps, which was one of the first donors, giving us £200 to help get us started, Alton Towers, Staffordshire County Councillors Mike Worthington and Mark Deaville, Cheadle Town Council and committee members councillors Dave Sargeant, Ray Wood, Ian Plant, Ron Locker, and Your Housing Group.
"Before we looked at this I didn't realise how many desperate cases were out there.
"People say there's no poverty in Cheadle but it's not true. I've heard people say 'if they got off their backsides and did something they would have food', but some people, for many different reasons, aren't in a position to do that, and we're lucky if we can.
"Cheadle Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has evidence that people from Cheadle were given vouchers to Foodbanks elsewhere. But some couldn't go because they had no transport and couldn't afford the bus fare."
Cheadle Foodbank is feeding on average seven people and distributing more than 70kg of food each week, and has so far given out more than a tonne of food. Of the 304 vouchers issued from January and May, 112 people have been fed, of which 74 are adults and 38 are children.
Reverend Clarke added: "People say 'why should we support people who have made bad choices, but a lot of those people didn't choose, things happened to them, and how can a child make a bad choice?
"We don't question what happened to get these people to this stage or judge."
Partners able to assess people and issue vouchers include medical professionals, social services, CAB and the police.
Main reasons for people accessing Foodbanks include debt, benefit changes and delays, unemployment, low income and domestic violence.
Thérèse Davall, Project Co-ordinator and Training Officer for Staffordshire Moorlands Advice Partnership, based at Cheadle CAB, said: "Due to the financial climate and changes in benefits a lot of local residents are struggling for food.
"We were having to find money from our purses to help people who came to us for Foodbank vouchers to get the bus to Leek or Stoke before Cheadle opened its own branch."
Peter Kent, deputy chairman of the Your Housing Board, and member of Cheadle Lions, said: "We believe in the work of the Trussell Trust and Cheadle and Leek Foodbanks, which we have helped with donations, and we are committed to further support."
Ann Waterhouse, Staffordshire Moorlands Vulnerability Officer for Staffordshire police, and former member of Cheadle Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: "We are a 24/7 service meeting the most needy people across the district and part of my role is to support victims of domestic violence.
"For a while officers have been authorised to issue Foodbank vouchers elsewhere in the county, so when we received the invitation from Cheadle Foodbank it was a no-brainer."
The Trussell Trust has 400 Foodbank projects across the UK, with 1,200 distribution centres nationwide, and is currently setting up two a week.
Ann Danks, representing the Trussell Trust, said: "It is fantastic to hear how much food has been given out and helped local people already.
"But, it's also sad we need Foodbanks at all and that Cheadle is so busy already.
"For every project there is a community dedicated to doing something about the problem; local people donating, volunteering and running sustainable projects to help local people in need of food; it's exciting to be part of that.
"We make sure people coming to us are genuine and work with frontline care professionals; people can't just turn up, ask for free food and get it.
"Benefit delays are the biggest cause for people using Foodbanks nationally, but a high majority of people living in poverty are working people on zero hour contracts or minimum wage, who despite working as hard as they can still cannot earn enough to feed their family."
Over the past year 913,138 people have been fed nationally, but it is envisaged that there are many more in need who are too embarrassed to ask for help.
Ann added: "Foodbanks have uncovered a real need and either through embarrassment, or lack of knowledge, many people who could be and should be accessing Foodbanks aren't.
"This just the tip of the iceberg; one in five parents regularly skip meals to feed tier children.
"But it's more than food, it's about sign posting people to the right support to help them get out of their situation, and lobbying to make the Government aware."
The Foodbank is open in The Oakley Room at Cheadle's Guild Hall in Tape Street on Wednesday from 9.30am to 11am and Fridays from 1.30pm to 3.30pm.
Contact 07902 835158 only available when the Foodbank is open.