The school holidays are well underway, bringing with them ‘holiday hunger’ – where children who usually receive free school meals find it difficult to get enough to eat during the 6 week summer break. Many families fall back on food banks to keep them going at this time of year, with The Trussel Trust – an anti-poverty charity – calling for more public donations to be made in view of this increased demand.
There are food banks in both Caernarfon and Bangor that are busy all year round, but other food schemes are available locally to help meet demand at peak times such as these. A Plaid Cymru Bangor food scheme established 4 months ago is going from strength to strength and is well-placed to help out with ‘holiday hunger’.
The Plaid Bangor Foodshare runs from the Plaid office at the top of the high street in Bangor on a Sunday morning between 10 and 12. It is part of the Fareshare scheme which distributes supermarket surplus to community groups for the benefit of those in need.
Said Arfon AM Siân Gwenllian, “The Foodshare was originally proposed by Plaid councillors in Bangor in conjunction with the local Tesco and Waitrose, and food is available to anybody who needs it, no questions asked. Many different types of food can be available depending on what surplus is passed on to us, but bread is usually in abundance which is ideal for families during the holidays for sandwiches and toast. As well as helping families it is also an excellent way of ensuring that surplus food does not go to waste.”
Hywel Williams MP said, “This initiative is indicative of the community spirit we see replicated up and down the constituency. I’m heartened that the people of Arfon are ready and willing to step up to help those in need. The Plaid Cymru Bangor Foodshare Scheme has been established as a compassionate and caring response to the food poverty crisis blighting the lives of thousands of people across Wales. I pay tribute to the volunteers involved in this scheme who give up their Sundays to support those in need of help and also to the local supermarkets for working with us to provide this service.”
Deiniol ward councillor Steve Collings co-ordinates the scheme and has seen a steady increase in usage as people become more aware of its existence.
“There is a similar scheme operating in Caernarfon and we thought that Bangor could benefit from having one too,” said Cllr. Collings. “It is a useful supplement for families who sporadically need extra supplies to tide them over despite not needing the constant support of a food bank referral, and it’s also a top-up for those who use the food bank regularly. The main thing is that it doesn’t require a referral or any documentation or explanation – you just turn up and help yourself. We see people of all ages and backgrounds, including people who are in work. Many people are on zero-hour contracts or low wages and a few loaves of bread can get them from one pay cheque to the next. I’d say that we see about 30 people on average every Sunday.”
Siân Gwenllian has visited the Foodshare scheme and has spent time volunteering there with local councillors.
“According to the Trussel Trust the number of children visiting food banks during the summer has shot up – this is a grave situation that should shame our government, and no child should be going without something as basic as a decent meal at a time when they should be enjoying their break from school.”