“This is amazing for the village. It really takes off a bit of stress and offers some friendly faces and kindness.”
Pill is a small village on the North West side of Bristol, quiet and surrounded by big green space. Yet Pill is one of the top ten most deprived areas in North Somerset and in the face of a long summer holidays, cost of living crisis, and rises in fuel prices, many people in Pill are feeling the strain of food insecurity more than ever.
In the past families have struggled to access free fresh food. There is a food bank which has been going since 2013. The one food bank in the village is free but can only offer food in tins or packets. They simply don’t have the money or infrastructure to provide chilled or fresh food.
With the holidays looming, local Pill resident, Jo Burt, knew that dozens of families would struggle to access enough free, fresh, healthy food after the school gates closed. She set out to plug the gap. Working alongside the Pill Food Bank, the Community Fridge and a posse of local volunteers, Jo launched the Pill Foodbank Hub.
At the start, the Hub was set up to help families of children eligible for free school meals. The team soon realised that this would exclude some of the residents who are most in need. Those that receive legacy benefits – tax credits, for example, often fall through the cracks. Quickly, the model was changed to support anyone that needed help.
Their first move was to register for FareShare South West’s Summer Holiday Scheme which saw them receive weekly deliveries of around 250kg fruit, vegetables, yogurts, bread, dairy, meat and more – which they used to stock the free, pop-up market in the community centre.
Week one saw eight families drop in to pick up fruit, vegetables and other staples. By week six, numbers had more than quadrupled with 35 families using the Foodbank hub. To date, the scheme has successfully supported around 77 children, mostly aged 5 to 11.
Jo says, “the impact on the community has just been massive. As well as providing food, we’re a friendly local face who people know and who knows what they’re going through at the moment and what life in the village is like.”
The Summer holidays are only just at an end, but already, the team have put in place measures to extend the food bank hub for a further trial period on a weekly basis from 1 December until the end of February 2023 , and hope to sign up to become a permanent community food member at FareShare South West. Next steps – to find sustainable funding and a steady stream of reliable volunteers to help man this crucial service. Jo has seen first-hand how much the local community has benefitted – many have said the scheme has been a lifeline.
Jo adds: ‘More and more people are coming forward and offering to volunteer, so we really just hope it can continue into the future. People have been saying how much they have been enjoying the food from FareShare South West, especially the fresh produce. One resident told us “This is amazing for the village, allowing families to have fresh fruit and veg and basic food really helps take off a bit of stress and offers some friendly faces and kindness.”’
Providing this food over the summer holidays, when free school meals aren’t available, has meant families can continue to feed their children nutritious, delicious meals, without worrying about the cost.
“The food that we have had has lasted all week allowing us to all have proper fresh dinner every night – it is appreciated more than we can explain – thank you. Keep it going please! “