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Food banks prepare for spike in demand over winter months

Food banks in Slough and Windsor are preparing for a peak in demand as vital donations are sought through the winter months approaching Christmas.

Between them, Windsor Foodshare and Slough Foodbank provide support to more than 100 people a week as teams of volunteers hand out emergency food supplies.

Windsor Foodshare, based at the Dedworth Green Baptist Church, currently provides essential items for up to 45 families and individuals a week who would otherwise be going hungry.

The centre is appealing for residents to donate one item of food each week to keep the shelves stocked.

Project manager Sarah Howard, 47, from Dedworth, said: “We’ve had a lovely boost with all the harvest festivals and schools that have donated but what we really need is a regular supply.

“If we had 800 people who were donating just one item a week our supply would be sorted.”

Windsor Foodshare launched four years ago as a Churches in Windsor initiative and relies on community donations to provide food to those in need.

A short-term voucher is issued which helps users stock their cupboards with goods including tinned meat, cereals, tinned vegetables and cooking sauces every Thursday.

It is run entirely by volunteers, who Sarah praised as ‘fantastic’.

She added: “People who come through the door the first time are often distressed or tearful and feeling awful about it.

“But they get a very warm welcome and we always have volunteers there for a chat. We try and make the process of helping someone as dignified as possible.”

People who use both services are referred from organisations including social services, mental health services, GPs or schools.

Slough Foodbank, which is based in Slough Trading Estate and opened in December 2010, relies on a team of 80 volunteers and manager Sue Sibany-King, who has been there for six years, said it is hard to predict when increases in demand will come.

“We have just had a very successful harvest festival so we are pretty well stocked,” said Sue, who hoped the donations from schools and churches will see them through until another spike in donations at Christmas.

During the festive period, people who visit the Slough centre are given a hamper in addition to normal food parcels.

Donations for this, including biscuits and tins of ham and salmon, need to be received by the end of November.

Sarah and Sue both voiced their fears that the government’s new Universal Credit system for benefit payments, which will be rolled out next year, could place a huge strain on their resources.

Universal Credit will see claimants given one monthly payment instead of the weekly or bi-weekly payments they currently receive.

In 2013, demand at Slough Foodbank tripled because of changes to benefits.  

Sarah, who also works as a full-time curtain and blind maker, said: “My biggest concern is what it does to people.

“The feeling of not being able to provide food for your family is very destructive for your self-esteem and one of the things we consistently see is people with battered self-esteem.”

Donation boxes for the Windsor project are available at Tesco in Dedworth Road, Waitrose in Windsor Yards, and churches across the town.

Visit www.windsorfoodshare.org.uk for details of how to help.

For Slough, food can be dropped off at Sainsbury’s stores in Taplow, Uxbridge Road and Farnham Road, as well as Tesco in Wellington Street. Visit https://slough.foodbank.org.uk for more.

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