Food service which has helped hundreds in Hednesford expands into Cannock and Rugeley

A food support service which has helped hundreds of vulnerable people in Staffordshire is set to expand amid Covid-19.

Helen Allman, Carl White and Debbie Cartwright who run weekly food donations in Hednesford which has just expanded into Cannock and Rugeley.
Helen Allman, Carl White and Debbie Cartwright who run weekly food donations in Hednesford which has just expanded into Cannock and Rugeley.

Hednesford Town Councillor Debbie Cartwright started the weekly food service in Hednesford with friend Helen Allman.

Now it is set to expand into Cannock and Rugeley due to a rise in demand for their service which as many as 60 access.

Councillor Cartwright, the principal speaker for homelessness and vulnerable adults, said: "As a food provision our service is very important that we continue to try and reach as many in the community as we can.

"We are classed as key-workers with the Neighbourly Scheme that provide surplus from Aldi and Marks & Spencers [and] we also receive surplus from Tesco FareShare and Sainsbury's.

"We will continue to set up each Friday in Cannock car park and in Rugeley at the bus shelter with hot food and a tuck bag – including a sandwich, crisps, chocolate bar and a drink for them to take away.

"If we are given fruit from the supermarkets' surplus we always try to include this in our weekly meets – as our service users rarely are able to access good wholesome food like this."

Social media

The service initially attracted around 10 or so families to the food donation table outside the Pye Green Community Centre, where a table is set up each Sunday from 2pm.

It has led to upwards of 40 to 60 turning up on an afternoon for food, with people starting to turn up at 1pm – and sometimes earlier – for it. The information is shared on social media.

Councillor Cartwright added: "We are, of course, not a food bank but we are able to provide a stopgap between these services with a hamper of food including ambient and fresh foods, mostly short dated, of which they are advised.

"This service has taken over the initial cause of supporting the homeless and vulnerable in these challenging times, but as we have networked the receipt of surplus from local supermarkets and we are in a good position to aid the food crisis locally for vulnerable families.

"It is very hard work behind the scenes negotiating and networking food surplus and the organisation of volunteers on a rota for collections. We are a team of 20 that rally around everyday collecting and despatching food. It is a labour of love, and I personally wouldn't have it any other way, it is my calling to help people in need and especially to give food and feed those that need it."

The kitchen is registered with Cannock Chase District Council's Environmental Health as a not-for-profit food business, with strict food and hygiene standards followed at all times.

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