The Foodbank is an independent charity, registered in England and Wales no 1154217, founded in 2013 by Churches Together in Cobham, Oxshott, Stoke D’Abernon and Surrounding Areas.
The Foodbank subscribes to the national network of over 400 food banks co-ordinated and advised by the Trussell Trust, a Christian charity in Salisbury. Trussell has devised, and Cobham Area Foodbank follows, a system whereby people who find themselves without the wherewithal to buy food, for whatever reason, can obtain a food voucher from a voucher issuer, who may be a school welfare officer, a Jobcentre, a housing benefit officer, a minister of religion or other professional, who will be able to verify the need expressed. The voucher details the number and ages of people to receive food, and records the reason why their need has arisen. These details are fed into a national Trussell Trust database.
The Foodbank has collection bins in all the local churches and some other premises including Waitrose, Starbucks and Sainsbury’s, and it invites donations of non-perishable food, which are collected in the Foodbank van (pictured below) and taken to the Foodbank warehouse at Brook Willow Farm, Leatherhead, where it is weighed and sorted by types and best-before dates. The Foodbank does not distribute fresh or out-of-date food.
Every Friday morning the van collects sufficient food for the week’s distribution, which takes place in the Foodbank’s ‘pop-up café’ at Cobham Methodist Church, open from midday to 1.30pm. In the last year we have distributed on average 1/3 tonne of food per week, providing food for 960 adults and 732 children – an average of 32 people per week. We are noticing an increase in numbers – around Christmas there were weeks where we provided food for between 60 and 70 people, and distributed over 1/2 tonne of food.
All the clients live locally, in Cobham, Oxshott, Stoke D’Abernon, or Downside. The area served by the Foodbank has been extended in the last year also to include East and West Horsley, Ockham and Effingham. St Martin’s, East Horsley, Horsley Evangelical Church, Effingham Methodist Church, and Posh Wash dry cleaners are all now collecting food.
Where people for whatever reason cannot come to our distribution centre, we deliver their food at home. The volunteers who serve in the distribution centre and those who do home deliveries all undergo special training in order that they treat clients appropriately, warmly and with respect.
The governing principles are ‘there but for the grace of God go I’, and Jesus’ great second commandment, to love thy neighbour as thyself. The Foodbank does not judge or advise its clients in any way, save only that there is a display of ‘signposts’ to various forms of advice and assistance.
The Foodbank does not impose any limit to the number of food parcels any client can receive. The only criterion is need. Particularly where many clients are working, but in low-paid and uncertain jobs, living in privately rented accommodation where rents rise but housing benefits have been cut or capped, (or are otherwise harmed by government austerity, as graphically shown by the recent award-winning film ‘I, Daniel Blake’), the Foodbank trustees consider that ideas of reducing ‘dependency’ are usually cruel and to be avoided. Most Foodbank clients have no chance of getting themselves out of poverty.
There are around 60 active volunteers working in the Foodbank, in transport (drivers and mates), warehouse and the distribution centre. There are no paid employees. The Foodbank is administered by a General Manager, Hugh Bryant, who also manages transport and is assisted by a volunteer coordinator and distribution manager, Christina Van Roest, and a warehouse manager, Jane Olsen. Hugh reports to a board of trustees chaired by Revd Godfrey Hilliard, including Hugh, Christina, Peter Wall and the treasurer, Claire Smith.
The Foodbank is most grateful for the support it receives financially from the churches, from various grants and generous individuals. It needs around £15,000 per year in order to meet its costs for warehouse rental, hire purchase and depreciation of the van, insurances and periodic needs to purchase food, where donations have not provided items needed in order to provide nutritionally-balanced food parcels. Bank details and a Gift Aid form may be found on the website www.cobhamarea.foodbank.org.uk.
Hugh D. Bryant
9th February 2017