A history of North Cotswold Foodbank and the Trussell Trust
The Trussell Trust story starts with a couple of Christians from Salisbury, Paddy and Carol Henderson, who met whilst serving in the British Army. They started working for a UN humanitarian feeding programme helping to improve conditions for the 60+ Romany children sleeping at the Central Railway Station in Bulgaria. In 1997 they founded The Trussell Trust with a legacy from Carol’s mother, Betty Trussell, to help forgotten people in Bulgaria.
Three years later, Paddy received a call from a mother in Salisbury, who was struggling to afford food and faced sending her children to bed hungry. Like many people, Paddy thought that our first world welfare state with its generous benefits, free NHS and schools meant that poverty didn’t exist in the UK. Looking around it was obvious that a sudden crisis was enough to tip a lot of ordinary people into debt and food poverty.
So Paddy started Salisbury Foodbank in his garden shed and garage, providing three days’ emergency food to local people in crisis. Rather than standing shaking a tin asking for money, collecting food outside a supermarket proved to be a much more successful way of keeping their stocks full.
This was the start of the foodbank model and it spread rapidly through church networks,
where inspiration was drawn from a verse from Matthew’s gospel in the Bible: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36).
The Trussell Trust now has over 1200 foodbanks across the UK. The Trust provides invaluable consultancy, training, systems, services, networking and quality assurance to the individual foodbanks in its network.
The story of North Cotswold Foodbank starts on Christmas Day 2010 when the secretary to Guiting Chapel, Sylvia Wood, died and her executors approached the minister of Naunton Baptist Church, Rev Fiona Milton, and her husband James to clear her larder. Boxes of food were taken to members of the local community, revealing a previously unrecognised need. The vast majority of foodbanks at that time were urban – but poverty is a rural reality too. At the time, average rural wages were 14% lower than urban ones, while the costs of travel, shopping and housing, including energy costs, were much higher. Just like today, the constant rise in energy costs was pushing low-income families into health-threatening choices between heating and eating.
In February 2011 Channel 4 News produced a report on the Trussell Trust and the Salisbury Foodbank and for Fiona and James Milton, the seeds were sown. By March they were talking to the Trussell Trust and discussions with potential church partners followed. July saw grant applications, recruitment of referral agencies and setting up of computer systems. Prior to opening, almost 1½ tonnes of food was donated by local schools, churches and individuals – testimony to the tremendous compassion and generosity of our rural communities, and their awareness that financial hardship is often only a pay cheque or two away. The Foodbank also received generous financial start-up support from individuals and charitable trusts, including the Gloucestershire Community Foundation, the Notgrove Trust, Moreton-in-Marsh Charity, Edith Mann Trust, Bourton-on-the-Water Trust, and several parish councils and churches.
The first outlets in Bourton, Moreton and Winchcombe opened in early December 2011 to provide a service accessible to local people who had obtained a voucher provided by a professional agency for three days’ emergency food. That first Christmas, food parcels were handed out to 16 adults and 22 children. In the first 10 weeks, 100 people were fed. One year and two weeks after opening, NCFB provided emergency food help to its thousandth client, proving that there really were households going hungry in the North Cotswolds.
As demand increased, further outlets were needed and in February 2012, Chipping Campden was added to the network with Bishops Cleeve following in October 2015. The Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 brought financial hardship to many families in our communities, particularly those involved in the hospitality sector, resulting in a significant increase in clients needing to use the Foodbank. So in order to alleviate the demand at our other centres a sixth outlet opened in Stow in April 2021.
Foodbank clients have a variety of backgrounds, and are not simply the homeless. They are typically low-income working families who hit an unexpected crisis, reduced earnings, redundancy or benefit delays. Employment in rural areas
is often in low-wage sectors such as retail, hospitality, agriculture and tourism. In general, our clients are working families struggling to make ends meet in the face of higher out-of-town living costs. The main crises triggering referral to the Foodbank are low income, domestic debt and child holiday meals (demand from families identified as genuinely reliant on free school meals during term time who are unable to afford to feed their children during the school holidays).
When North Cotswold Foodbank first opened, it was thought that the store room at Naunton Baptist Church would meet its needs. But demand soared and the small store was under so much pressure that most of the stock was stacked on the pews in the Chapel. With the church due to close for worship in November 2012, the Foodbank was struggling to cope. Then Guiting Manor Amenity Trust very kindly came to the rescue with a rent-free secure store at Glebe Farm Buildings in Guiting Power where the warehouse has operated from ever since.
The initial Foodbank manager was James Milton, who said: “Sometimes those in greatest need prefer to keep out of sight and prefer to keep their struggles to themselves. This is the greatest challenge for the Foodbank – hidden hunger.”
Fiona and James subsequently moved to Salisbury where James took up wider duties with the Trussell Trust. In December 2013 a new project manager, Rhian Morgan, was appointed. She left in August 2019 and was replaced in by Kevin Carden but remains a Trustee.
In January 2013, NCFB became a registered charity. It is now overseen by a group of Trustees, currently headed by Alexia Monroe. The Trustees are currently: Alexia Monroe, Rhian Morgan, Jo Cooper, Garry Dick, Wayne Morgan, Lucye Deacon
and Jonathan Brown. Kevin Carden is the Project Manager with responsibility for running the Foodbank, assisted by Lorna Shawcross. Recent additions to the staff are Sue Dunn, who is responsible for developing our relationships with referral agencies, and Dean Snuggs, who is the new warehouse supervisor. There is also a steering group, which meets quarterly, to report on news and activity across the outlets and share experiences, ideas and best practice.
With the exception of the 4 members of staff, everyone else works for the Foodbank as a Volunteer. We are exceptionally lucky to have a great team of volunteers, without whom, quite simply, we would not be able to operate and we are extremely grateful for their time and dedication.
Although it is disappointing that we have not yet reached a point where foodbanks are no longer needed, we will continue to provide vital support when it matters most.