This Friday (31 July) will see the final food parcels delivered by the Wokingham Borough Community Response as nationally the shielding programme is paused from 1 August.
The food distribution hub was one part of the overall Wokingham Borough Community Response, which also included wellbeing checks, and befriending service. It has been key in helping support residents with their food needs. However, during the past few weeks, the support required has reduced as more people are able to access food via other routes, such as supermarket online click and collect or through some local charities who have programmes to help residents with their shopping.
Cllr Charles Margetts, executive member for health, wellbeing and adult services, said: “The community response has been a real team effort. It was set up within days of lockdown and so many of our voluntary organisations from right across the borough came together to provide invaluable support to so many of our residents. On behalf of everyone involved, I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who gave their time, resources and expertise during these extraordinary circumstances.”
Since March, more than 4,600 food parcels have been delivered supporting more than 1,885 people across the borough. It was a huge team effort with more than 106 volunteers and 12 redeployed borough council staff taking on critical roles at the hub to ensure the health and wellbeing of our residents were supported. From taking the initial referrals to packing food parcels and delivering essential supplies to hundreds of households, it was a mammoth task to organise.
Some 34 per cent of parcels were delivered to the over 70s, with more than 200 shielding households receiving weekly food parcels. On one day alone almost 115 food parcels were delivered by a dedicated team of volunteer drivers. And some 30 per cent of initial referrals required immediate support, and food and essential goods were delivered on the same day.
Emma Cantrell, CEO at First Days, said: “At First Days we are very proud of the speed in which this brand new service got off the ground, in just a few days from the first meeting with the borough council and other charities we had delivered our first food parcel, it was a huge undertaking.
“It has been an honour to lead a service in collaboration with the council that helped so many people in our community who were struggling to access food - from providing thousands of food parcels, to eventually being able to ensure that residents could get online shopping deliveries or support from the many incredible community groups. All credit goes to the many volunteers who gave up their time to help the most vulnerable in our community, we couldn't have done it without their commitment and generosity."
'Front door' remains open
Although the food distribution hub will close its doors on Friday in line with government food parcels finishing, it doesn’t mean care and support to residents will stop. Wokingham Borough Council will continue to work with the voluntary sector as well as town and parish councils to provide a COVID-19 response. Citizens Advice Wokingham will continue to provide the ‘front door’ for the community response. They take calls and emails from residents and will put them in contact with the people and organisations who can help.
Residents can call Citizens Advice Wokingham on 0300 330 1189 or visit the Citizens Advice Wokingham website. If you are hard of hearing, you can use the text relay service by calling 03444 111 445. Phone lines are staffed Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm and Saturday, 9am to 1pm.
The Wokingham Borough Community Response has a truly borough-wide collaboration involving the borough council, town and parish councils, voluntary groups, community organisations and charities, neighbourhoods and individual people.
The foodbanks in Wokingham and Woodley are still welcoming donations for local people in need. To donate food visit the Wokingham foodbank website and Woodley foodbank webpages
Cllr Margetts added: “It is not just our community response that has been at the forefront of support. Communities across the Wokingham Borough have been supporting each other and the stories that have been coming through are so inspiring. It’s been a truly awful time for so many. Lots of our residents were worried, scared and anxious about not having any support during the pandemic. But the sense of community throughout this crisis has shown how important it is for people to come together and help others. And we have shown what we can achieve and what a difference we can make by working in partnership.”