By Sophie Perry
Staff at a Wolverhampton food bank have been “amazed” by the generosity of local residents, who have continued to donate essential items throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for those in need.
The Ashmore Park Pantry, run by St Albans C of E Church on Griffiths Drive, Ashmore Park, supplies essential items to people on low incomes across the council estate and its surrounding areas.
The food bank was set up at the beginning of the pandemic by The Ashmore Inn, the pub next door to the church, to help those who had fallen on hard times. St Albans church took over running the foodbank in June 2020 when The Ashmore Inn could reopen fully for business.
Reverend Tom Fish described how the food bank has not seen a “dramatic increase” but “a steady flow of people in need” throughout the pandemic.
He said: “We are amazed at people’s generosity. Particularly the month before Christmas, there wasn’t a day that would go past without several people turning up with something for the food bank.”
Rev Tom added the pandemic has highlighted how “lots of people want to be generous and we are really grateful for that”.
Their work was strengthened when the quality of government food parcels provided during lockdown to families whose children receive free school meals recently attracted controversy
Footballer Marcus Rashford criticised the quality of these food parcels which are distributed by private catering company Chartwells.
The Manchester United player shared images of the parcels on Twitter, some of which appeared to be worth less than £5.
Rashford shared a photo of one parcel meant feed to a family for three days and described it as “just not good enough”. The image has since been retweeted 29,000 times and liked 173,000 times.
Resharing the image, Rashford tweeted: “Then imagine we expect the children to engage in learning from home. Not to mention the parents who, at times, have to teach them who probably haven’t eaten at all so their children can…
“We MUST do better. This is 2021.”
In response to this controversy Ashmore Park Pantry posted on Facebook, urging families left short by food parcels to contact them for support.
Rev Tom said: “We are seeing a handful of new people. We put the word out for parents on free school meals that we would happily top up any gaps they had.”
Wolverhampton currently has 16,000 primary and secondary pupils across the city who are eligible for free school meals, equivalent to around 36 per cent of all pupils. This is far above the national average of 17 per cent.
Rev Tom believes the ongoing issue with food poverty lies in the welfare system’s reliance on food banks as a safety net.
He said: “I think the approach in the welfare system that it is ok for there to be gaps in provisions for people because food banks will ‘fill it up’ is a problem. It is not a problem that has happened over the last year, but a problem that has happened over the last 10 years.”