A food hub in Kidsgrove – which also caters for the Alsager area – has seen queues of more than 70 people, and witnessed all its food disappear within four minutes.
These record demands are why the food hub was set up, said Rtn Dave Barber who runs the food hub along with other Rotary Club of Kidsgrove members, many of whom live in the Scholar Green area.
Mr Barber, (34) from Abbey Hulton, said: “In Kidsgrove there is nothing, which is a shame.
It’s good because now we are tackling the vulnerable people, elderly, young and families. They can come here, use the table to get food and get a drink.
“We knew before we set this up just over 12 months ago that there was a need – although we are classed as Kidsgrove Rotary we cover Goldenhill, Tunstall, Sandyford and Alsager, and they have all been coming to us, so you can tell it’s needed.”
The food hub, unlike many other food banks, doesn’t operate a voucher system. All the food collected is put out along the table and individuals can take what they need. The food is sourced from nearby shops, but organisers only know what they are getting on the day.
This means some days there is plenty of food, others not so much.
In addition to the Rotarians also run a social supermarket where customers can select what they want from the shop. Prices start from £5 for 10 items and occasionally there are some “buy it now items”. All the money made in the shop goes back into the food hub.
Last October the food hub’s main concern for their users was the increase in gas and electricity prices.
Rtn Barber said: “You could clearly see what was going on. They were concerned about whether they were going to be eating or heating. I could, honest to God, have cried for them”
The hub also works with local schools and other organisations. Local schools have been donating the fresh produce, collected through harvest festivals, so none of the fresh produce goes to waste.
The hub also makes referrals to other agencies, and on Christmas day it organised for some elderly members of the community to be picked up on Christmas morning and have a three course meal, so they weren’t alone on Christmas.
Rtn Barber continued: “Families have turned around and said if it wasn’t for the food banks ‘what would we do’, and you can see the smiles on their faces.
“I don’t know what else we can do. We cater for everything, we have toiletries, fruit and veg, bread and cakes and sometimes supermarkets even give us dinted cans.”
Rtn Barber said he watched what people took to ensure it was fair.
His basic rules for fruit, veg and bread are “take as much as you want”, and he said he had even encouraged people to take more bread home and freeze, to make sure they’ve always got some. Cakes are strictly one per person, to make sure there is enough for everyone.
Any food waste is collected by a local farmer for animal feed, not only helpful for the environment but also avoids the hub buying costly food waste bins.
One food hub user, Barbara Harris, said: “There are two types of people who come here – those who are lonely and those in need.
“I’ve been coming here for nearly a year. My daughter first heard about it, and I thought I would give it a try. The hardest thing to do is put your feet through the threshold.”
Marcia Ferguson agreed with Ms Harris’s sentiments and said: “It’s lovely. You meet different people all the time, and it is nice to get out of the house.”
Kidsgrove Food Hub is open 11-1 every weekday, apart from Monday, at Kidsgrove Labour Club.