Thousands of people are expected to seek extra help to ensure they do not go hungry over the winter months.
The coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on everyone’s lives but it’s been even harder for those who have suffered a loss of income.
Many families have been forced to turn to food banks for the first time in their lives because they are struggling to pay for food after being made redundant or having their working hours cut.
Now is the time of year when the charities are always traditionally busy with increasing numbers of people forced to choose between eating or heating their home.
But help is on hand as charities and other organisations across the Black Country, Staffordshire and Wyre Forest work around the clock to ensure essential supplies reach those who need them the most.
And the Express & Star would like to support their efforts by encouraging people, who can afford to do so, to donate food and toiletries to help Feed a Family This Christmas.
Thanks to the generosity of our readers we have been able to deliver tens of thousands of items to charities since our annual campaign began in 2016.
This year we have been forced to change the way we run the appeal due to Covid-19 restrictions.
We are asking people to donate items to the food banks and organisations directly by using their established collection points, which are listed on this page.
This will ensure the donations reach their dedicated teams quickly and safely so they can be passed on to the people who need them.
All of the organisations that will benefit from your contributions of non-perishable food and toiletries are helping individuals and families in need every day.
Many are seeing an increase in demand year on year and in many places 2020 has seen unprecedented numbers turning to charities for help.
In 2019, Black Country Food Bank handed out 253,077 meals and fed 18,044 people between January and September.
This year, the charity, which runs almost solely on volunteers, has already given out in excess of 305,617 meals and fed 19,994 people. It operates 23 different centres located across Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall, with each one in turn providing food parcels lasting three-days to vulnerable people and those who have fallen on hard times.
Jen Coleman from Black Country Food Bank says the pandemic has shone a light on the problems many people are facing.
“This time of year is typically difficult for many due to the financial pressures that Christmas and the winter months bring. People have difficult decisions to make about whether to put the heating on or use their cooker and many families will struggle to buy winter clothing for their children.
“In amongst these decisions people will go without food in order to make sure other family members have enough.
“This year the pandemic has magnified the problems people are facing and at Black Country Food Bank we have seen a significant increase in those needing our help.
“The main reasons for crisis are unemployment, debt, low income and problems relating to Covid. We anticipate that demand will continue for the next few months.”
The number of people seeking support has also soared for Cannock and District Food Bank, which feeds people in need across Cannock, Heath Hayes, Norton Canes, Burntwood, Penkridge, Great Wyrley, Huntingdon and parts of South Staffordshire. The charity, which has 60 volunteers, operates from eight locations and works closely with the Salvation Army and Burntwood Be A Friend.
Between April and September, 2020 there had been a 60 per cent rise in referrals to the food bank – compared to the same period in 2019.
Volunteers handed out a total of 3,514 food parcels, each containing enough food for 21 meals, during that time.
Adam Tilsley, project manager at Cannock and District Food Bank, said: “We’ve seen a huge rise in demand. We’ve already fed the same number of people that we fed during the whole of last year.
“We provide seven-day food parcels, which we started doing in April, so we’ve given out 73,794 meals.”
And it’s a similar situation elsewhere in the region with Walsall North Food Bank, based at Pelsall Methodist Church, also seeing a large increase in demand this year. Between March and October, a total of 1,148 people, including 640 children, received help, up from 874 in 2019.
And Smethwick Food Bank, which operates from Holy Trinity Church and has been running for 10 years, has seen unprecedented numbers of families needing assistance in April.
In 2019, the charity provided three-day food parcels to a total of 5,918 people.
This rose to 9,961 between April and October this year with volunteers seeing many people who had never needed a food bank before. Volunteers are also predicting that by the end of March 2021, the number will have risen to more than 20,000. This is why the Express & Star is urging people, in the season of goodwill, to show support for the families and individuals in our communities who need a helping hand this Christmas.
Editor-in-chief Martin Wright said: “This has been a year like no other. Our everyday lives have been turned on their head by the pandemic and many of the freedoms that we have come to take for granted have – out of necessity – been curtailed to prevent the continued spread of the virus. While we are all hoping that vaccines will help us return to normal life at some point next year but, in the meantime, it is vital that campaigns such as Feed a Family at Christmas continue to support those in need.
“Of course, the campaign will be different this year but in many ways it is more important than ever given the economic problems created by the pandemic.Thanks to our readers, this campaign has been a huge success in the past and I am sure this year will be no exception. Please support it to help make the festive season that little bit better for those in need."
WHAT TO DONATE:
All of the items in this list need to have ‘best before’ dates beyond December. Some food banks will not accept festive items after a certain date to ensure it can all be distributed in time for Christmas. The food must not contain any alcohol:
Chocolates including selection boxes
Breakfast cereal (preferably non-sugared)
Milk (UHT or powder, preferably semi-skimmed)
Fruit juice (long-life)
Small jars of coffee
Tinned meat (ham,corned beef, Spam)
Tinned ready meals (chilli, meatballs, stew)
Tinned vegetarian ready meals (curry, ratatouille, macaroni cheese)
Packets of mashed potato/tinned potatoes
Tinned fish (tuna, mackerel, salmon & sardines)
Pasta sauce/cooking sauces
Tinned fruit (in juice preferably)
Tinned rice pudding/custard
Healthy snacks (small boxes of raisins/apricots)
Biscuits, crackers, crispbreads
WHERE TO DONATE:
Black Country Foodbank
The Storehouse, Albion Street, Brierley Hill, DY5 3EE.
Open Monday to Friday 9am-2pm.
Deadline for Christmas food is December 4.
Unit 16, Wulfrun Trading Estate, Stafford Road, Wolverhampton WV10 6HH.
Open Tuesday to Friday 8.30am-1pm.
Please call 01902 256523 before you deliver.
Sainsbury’s in Wombourne, Perton and Wednesfield have donation points as well as Asda in Wolverhampton.
Good Shepherd Ministry, Wolverhampton
Food and toiletries can be donated at Sainsbury’s in Chapel Ash.
If you have a large number of items to donate, call 01902 399955 to arrange delivery or collection.
Ettingshall and Bilston Food Pantry
Word of Spirit and Life Baptist Church, George Street, Ettingshall, WV2 2LW.
Open Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1.30pm-4pm.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or call 07961 319795
Excel Church Food Bank
Wolverhampton Street, Bilston, WV14 0LT.
01902 402273. Open Monday to Wednesday, 9am-5pm. excelchurch.org.uk/foodparcel
Cannock and District Food Bank
Coniston Hall, Cecil Street, Chadsmoor, WS11 5HD. Open Monday to Saturday, 10am-3pm.
01543 422394 or visit cannockdistrict.foodbank.org.uk
Deadline for Christmas food is December 12
Rugeley Food Bank
Rugeley Community Centre, Burnthill Lane, Rugeley,WS15 2HX.
Open Monday to Friday 9am-4pm. Tesco also have a collection point, as do most Rugeley churches.
Walsall North Food Bank
Pelsall Methodist Church, Chapel Street.
Open Tuesdays, 11am-1pm, and Fridays 1-3pm.
Bloxwich and Blakenall Food Bank
Blakenall Village Centre, Thames Road, Blakenall, Walsall, WS3 1LZ.
Open Thursdays 11am-1pm.
Great Barr Food Bank
St Bernard’s Church, Broome Avenue Great Barr B43 5AL.
Open Fridays 12-3pm.
0121 3575399, greatbarr.foodbank.org.uk
Smethwick Food Bank
Holy Trinity Church, Church Hill Street, Smethwick, B67 7AH.
Open Tuesdays and Fridays, 12-2pm.
Quinton and Oldbury Food Bank
St Boniface Church, Quinton Road West, Quinton, B32 2QD.
Open Wednesdays, 11am-1pm.
Kidderminster Food Bank, based at Baxter Church
Food can be donated at Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s in Kidderminster, as well as at Tesco, Aldi, Lidl and Co-op in Stourport.