Be a Woking Foodbank Valentine

WOKING families in need are to be given chocolate treats alongside essential food and other goods in a campaign to coincide with Valentine’s Day.

The initiative is the idea of Andy Berriman, a teacher and member of the Labour Party, from a similar project in East Sussex.

Woking Foodbank volunteers Michael and Lisa load packs at the warehouse in Knaphill

Andy, who lives in Woking, visited Lewes, where Labour Party members ran an initiative before Christmas to collect donations for their local Foodbank outside supermarkets.

A similar project in Woking fell foul of coronavirus restrictions, so Andy has set up an online donation site. He and other volunteers will use the money to buy items that Woking Foodbank needs, as well as chocolates to help users of the service enjoy Valentine’s Day.

Andy said: “It’s about coalition-building and reaching out to people to address a really basic need.”

He said the Lewes project was inspirational in the way it brought in people who are not Labour Party members.

The sign at the new warehouse that signals it is open to receive donations

The campaign to be a “Woking Foodbank Valentine” was launched just as the foodbank announced a “significant increase” in the need for its services – this January saw a 126% increase in foodbank referrals, compared to January last year.

Alison Buckland, the Woking Foodbank administrator, said she was delighted that Andy had spoken to her to find out exactly what is needed.

“We do have shortages and it’s great when people work with us to find out what we need,” Alison said.

She said the Foodbank website has an up-to-date list of what is needed.

“It’s really helpful that the volunteers are going to do the shopping as it’s not easy for us to do that,” Alison said.

Andy said he hopes Woking supermarkets will help with the project and a similar initiative is planned for Easter.

Gerry Mitchell, secretary of the Woking Constituency Labour Party, said: “The majority of people referred to the Foodbank meet the requirement of destitution: in financial crisis not able to afford food, but also not able to afford heating, lighting, toiletry and clothes.

“It is those in insecure work (such as the hospitality sector) in particular, perhaps in multiple insecure jobs, who have been hit hard by the pandemic. Many of those jobs may have gone but also the informal childcare that those with children relied on to be able to take those insecure jobs may also have been lost.  

“The wider structural issues that have led to this destitution were growing long before the pandemic including stagnating wages, insecure work, capped/frozen benefits and high living costs.”

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