Bradford employees could soon be asked to take donations of food to work for homeless and disadvantaged families. EMMA CLAYTON reports.

It's been an eventful first year for the Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank. The scheme was launched earlier this year to send out food donations to families and individuals who are homeless, living in sub-standard accommodation and/or struggling financially.

The donations are collected and stored by volunteers at the food bank then distributed across the district by representatives of charities, community groups, religious organisations, breakfast clubs, GPs' practices and refugee/asylum-seeker services.

The project was launched by a team headed by Lashman Singh, who founded the Bradford Curry Project 14 years ago. While the Curry Project, which continues to operate, runs on a drop-in basis, the food bank was designed along more structured lines. There are no direct handovers of food - the donations have to be applied for in writing then sent out via an organised network of distributors.

Following 18 months of planning, the food bank was launched in March once storage premises had been secured. Father John Abberton at St Mary's Church in Barkerend allowed the food bank to use a former nursery building next to the church for storing supplies.

But four months after its launch, the scheme ground to a halt because the food supplies had dried up. "Our shelves are empty, we're crying out for more donations," food bank founder Lashman Singh told the Telegraph & Argus in August. "We're getting lots of requests from people working with refugees and single parent families who desperately need donations, particularly of baby food."

Fast forward a few months and the food bank appears to have got back on its feet, largely thanks to an appeal in the T&A and the generosity of local churches and schools.

"We had a lot of donations from harvest festivals which has really boosted our supplies," says Lashman, sounding more upbeat than he did back during the summer's crisis point. "We've had a £1,500 donation from Tesco which was fantastic and earlier this month our volunteers were out in force asking shoppers at Tesco stores around the district to donate food."

And from January a new scheme is being launched which it is hoped will swell donations even further. Monthly collection points are being set up at St Luke's Hospital and Bradford Royal Infirmary for staff to drop off donations for the food bank. It is hoped the scheme will be extended to other organisations and businesses.

St Luke's Hospital chaplain the Rev Chris Johnson says: "Staff have been notified about containers being put out one day each month. We're asking for tinned, dried and packet food.

"It's a straightforward way for people to make donations and the Trust is keen to support the scheme. Hopefully it will take off, we'll have to see how it goes. Anyone visiting the hospitals can make donations but initially it's only being advertised internally. As it becomes more established we may look to broaden it out."

Lashman hopes other businesses will set up collection points too. "This is a way we can all be heroes and do our bit for those less well off," he says. "For the service to run effectively we need regular donations. When our donations ground to a halt it looked like we might not be able to continue but thankfully we're still going. We need to make sure the food keeps coming in so this project has a future.

"We're very grateful to Tesco for their donation, that will help to build up our stocks."

He adds: "This isn't a drop-in service like the Curry Project; people can't just come along for food handouts. We distribute it through professionals and community workers liaising with people in need right across the district. Anyone wanting food fills in a form stating their requirements which go to Touchstone, then we sort out and box up the food and it's picked up and distributed by professionals and community workers.

"Organisations serving food in Bradford only reach a minority because most of them are in the city centre, but there are many more vulnerable people all around the district.

"We're all volunteers and fully prepared to do this in our spare time. What we desperately need, to continue, are food donations. We need things like tinned and dried food and jars, packets and cartons."

  • For more information about the Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank ring (01274) 521028.
Volunteers put joy into Christmas

Volunteers have been spending some of their Christmas break helping the homeless at Bradford Day Shelter, thanks to an appeal in the Telegraph & Argus.

Earlier this month the shelter's head of service Michelle Clark appealed for people to help prepare and serve meals and help provide entertainment on Christmas Day, and to volunteer at the shelter into the new year.

"Sixteen people have come forward so far, I'm delighted," she says. "I'd like to say a big thankyou to the T&A and to everyone who has responded to the appeal. We're always very grateful for whatever help people can give, especially at this time of year."

Donations of winter clothing have also come forward but the shelter still needs things like heavy waterproof coats, socks, stable footwear, hats, scarves and gloves, and good quality underwear.

More than 100 people were expected to pass through the shelter's doors in Edmund Street, Little Horton, over Christmas.

The shelter, which provides immediate and long-term help for the homeless and people in poor housing, was open on Christmas Day, when there was a full dinner followed by party games. It will also be open on New Year's Day.

Anyone who would like to donate clothing or volunteer at Bradford Day Shelter is asked to ring (01274) 393234.