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Feed a Family This Christmas 2018: Time to spread a little joy

By Heather Large | Feed a Family | Published:

The Express & Star has launched its Feed a Family This Christmas appeal for the third year running – and it’s been given the seal of approval by panto star Debbie McGee.

Food banks are helping more people than ever this year with the Black Country Food Bank now providing 16,000 meals every month. Tens of thousands of emergency food parcels and meals have been handed out across the Midlands by food banks and other charities since last year’s appeal which is why we are once again asking readers for help.

From today until December 15 we are appealing for donations of festive food such as mince pies, chocolates and Christmas puddings, as well as basics including pasta and rice. We would also be grateful for non-food items such as toiletries and gifts.

Debbie, who the wife of late-magician Paul Daniels, will be is taking on the role of The Good Fairy at Wolverhampton Grand’s panto Sleeping Beauty from December 8, from December 8 until January 13, took a break from rehearsals to champion our campaign, describing it as ‘wonderful’.

“When you’re sitting at your Christmas lunch, wouldn’t you feel good if you’ve given something to someone who won’t have that this Christmas?” said Debbie, widow of much-loved magician Paul Daniels.

From today until December 15, we are collecting contributions of non-perishable food and toiletries as well as socks and hats.

If you can afford to help, we are appealing for gifts of festive food, such as mince pies, chocolates and Christmas puddings.

We are also asking for store cupboard essentials like canned goods, long-life milk, fruit juice, pasta and rice.

Thanks to the generosity of our readers, the appeal was a huge success in 2017 collecting in excess of 12,000 items for food banks, the homeless and children at The Haven refuge.

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And that’s why we know kind-hearted people across the Black Country and Staffordshire will get behind this good cause again this Christmas – and when the need for help is even greater.

The good causes we will be supporting this year are the Black Country Food Bank, which has centres across Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall, The Well (Home of Wolverhampton Food Bank), the Good Shepherd Ministry, based in Wolverhampton, and Cannock and District Food Bank.

They are helping individuals and families in need every day and have seen numbers needing support continue to rise.

The main issue people face is benefits being delayed or stopped, which leaves them turning to the food bank for help, while the roll-out of Universal Credit has also left some families in debt.

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Other reasons include redundancy or receiving an unexpected bill on a low income.

At this time of year, many are also faced with the heart-breaking choice of either putting food on the table or heating their home. Food banks and charities are also supporting many homeless people as well as rough sleepers and ‘sofa-surfers’

Every month thousands of people are being fed thanks to emergency supplies from the Black Country Food Bank. The charity is seeing an extra 150 people a month compared with 2017.

The charity provided a total of 182,000 meals between April 2017 to March 2018. Of these, 60,020 were for children, an increase of five per cent on the previous year.

Black Country Food Bank office manager Jen Coleman said donations to the Feed a Family This Christmas appeal would be a welcome boost. Christmas is a wonderful time of year but for many is an extremely difficult time as financial pressures mount.

“Warm clothes, heating homes and providing good meals are things that many will not even consider as a pressure this Christmas but for those whose are plunged into a crisis it can mean that something has to give.

“Parents and carers will go without food to make sure that their children eat. Sometimes the family choose between eating and heating.

“Donations at the food bank during the Christmas period are crucial as some of those families in need are provided with a food parcel and given a bit of breathing space to try and sort out the longer term issues,” she added.

The high demand at the food bank has been mirrored at The Well in Wolverhampton, which has already supported more than 8,700 people so far this year, compared with 7,500 in 2017.

“Sadly, this year has been extremely busy in terms of the need in the city. Some days the referral line never stops ringing.

“We are supporting families and individuals across all age groups and communities across the city and on the South Staffordshire border,” said Caroline and Gary Price, who run the charity.

The Good Shepherd is providing 250 individuals and families every day with practical assistance in the form of food and toiletries. Numbers seeking help are also growing.

Helen Holloway, admin manager, said: “We currently serve around 120 meals in the dining room four days a week, 100 family food parcels are distributed twice a week and we do individual take-outs and food packs twice a week to around 120 each time.

“The demand for our services is increasing and in the last five months we have registered on average 25 new service users per month this includes both families and singles.

“We are giving out family food parcels to around 80 families each week and try and include a range of food so families can cook and share meals together within the home as well as offering meals in our dining room.”

There has also been great demand at Cannock and District Food Bank which, between December 1, 2017 and May 31,2018, provided 1,806 people with food parcels. This is the equivalent of 16,254 meals. The appeal will also be supporting The Haven which provides both practical and emotional support services to women and children who are affected by domestic violence and homelessness.

Chocolate selection boxes will be passed on to the charity to give youngsters some much-needed Christmas cheer.

Senior community fundraiser Jade Secker said: “We are so grateful for all of the support the Express and Star and wider community give to The Haven through the Feed a Family appeal. Christmas can be such a difficult time for the women and children we support, having had their lives torn apart by abuse.

“With thanks to this appeal, we are able to give our service users the chance to enjoy Christmas in the way it should be – thank you for your generous suppor.”

Express & Star Deputy Editor Diane Davies said: “We were absolutely overwhelmed by the outstanding support we had from our communities last year. We were able to help so many families and people in need. Sadly it seems the pressures on charities are as bad, if not worse, this year which is why we are again appealing for your help.

"Every item you donate will go to someone in need and help bring a little Christmas cheer to struggling families, people on the streets or children who rely on The Haven.”

Donations can be taken to:

*E&S Wolverhampton head office: 51-53 Queen Street, Wolverhampton

*Waitrose Wolverhampton, Marston Road, Wolverhampton

*Morrisons, Black Country Route, Bilston

*Saddlers Shopping Centre, Park Street, Walsall

*Sainsburys, Reedswood Way, Walsall

*Tesco Extra, New Square, West Bromwich

*Tesco Superstore, Heath Way, Cannock

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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