Tonight, for a couple of hours, as on most Wednesday nights, 15 to 20 volunteers at a former Roman Catholic church, St Mary’s in Barkerend, will be filling bags with tins and boxes of food.
In every bag there will be cereals, a litre of UHT milk, a kilo of sugar, teabags, baked beans, soup, meat or fish of some kind. There might even be a bag of Seabrook’s Wasabi Horseradish crisps, 100 cartons of which were destined for landfill but instead were offered to Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank. They accepted. They have also been dishing out a consignment of Tyrrel’s sea-salt crisps.
Recently, a pallet-load of Darjeeling and Assam quality tea by Jackson’s of Piccadilly, which was nearing its sell-by date, was given to the charity by an Elland company, Suma.
Food Bank organisers are currently talking to the Co-op about the destination of foodstuffs taken off the shelves of its local supermarkets. As reported in the T&A, the food bank has put out a call for more donations of dried and tinned food.
Treasurer and former Bradford councillor Keith Thomson outlined the extent of the growing demands on the food bank.
He said: “You’ve got a lot of East European families and Roma families on their knees who technically cannot work. They work in the black economy. They pay rent to landlords who took advantage of the right to buy council houses and run groups of ten to 20 houses, let out to people on benefits and so on.
“The outcome is they’ve problems. They have got to scrape together money for the rent, but don’t have enough for food. We support lots of Roma families through social services and children’s centres.”
On Monday morning, he was visited by a representative of Horton Housing, which provides accommodation for the vulnerable. A family with benefit difficulties had nothing to eat. Mr Thomson provided three bags of food to help them over the next few days while their difficulties were being sorted out.
“We have an income of £3,000 to £4,000 a year, sometimes less. Every three or four months, I buy 2,000 plastic bags from a Shipley firm and we double them up for our food bags and tie the tops with string,” he added.
A good time for the charity is September, after music festivals and harvest festivals. Last September, after the Leeds Festival, for example, volunteers collected 63 boxes of food from the campsite. Thirty primary schools donate food from their harvest festivals.
A Barkerend Road school raised £700 for the food bank. A Queensbury school collected 30 big boxes of food and followed up with a collection that raised £400.
What goes out from St Mary’s is 300 bags of food a month. Over 12 months, that’s 3,600 or more people who would otherwise go hungry.
Since 2004, when the Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank started collecting food, supplies have been distributed by agencies like those mentioned by Keith Thomson. Mainly they have gone to people within the old Bradford City boundary. But a number do go further afield to Shipley and Keighley.
“It wouldn’t be true to say that deprivation is only here in Bradford. There’s a church in Otley that supplies us with food and we supply bags of food to families there. In terms of feeding hungry people, it’s immaterial where you draw the political line,” Mr Thomson added.
In New York, there is a food distribution charity called With God’s Love, for which the comedienne Joan Rivers got a lot of money when she won a series of Donald Trump’s American Celebrity Apprentice.
But hunger is secular, and so is the Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank. It receives food supplies from churches, chapels and mosques and help from university students and ethnic community associations.
In a real way, what the charity does, along with the Curry Project, Bradford Soup Run, Bradford Day Centre and the Sunbridge Road Mission, actually embodies what the well-meaning talk about in public forums when Bradford’s image is discussed.
For more information, ring Keith Thomson on (01274) 542672, or Ken leach on 07765 473271, or visit bradford.foodbank.moonfruit.com.