Five years being there when needed the most

Gazette reporter Victoria Bull gets a taste of what the DENS Dacorum Foodbank offers as she volunteers at its busiest time of year. ENGPNL00120131216131847

Gazette reporter Victoria Bull gets a taste of what the DENS Dacorum Foodbank offers as she volunteers at its busiest time of year. ENGPNL00120131216131847

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Five years, 208,062kg of food donations, and 15,050 people helped across Dacorum including 5,782 children.

It has been a busy first half-decade for DENS Dacorum Foodbank, but their work continues and shows no sign of easing off.

Manager Sharon Boyall told the Gazette: “Our work has been consistent. We don’t keep giving the same people food over a long period, we help people during a crisis, and help them to find the agencies that can assist them.

“That means we aren’t seeing the same people, it’s always new people who are in need.

“Last year we issued 1,420 parcels to 3,262 people, including 1,312 children.”

Sharon joined the foodbank team shortly after it opened, and is the only paid member of staff working alongside the 30 volunteers.

The role sees her coordinate her colleagues and the collections from supermarketsand other foodbank points, lead the fundraising, and run the finances.

“Every day is different,” says Sharon. “But every day you know that you are making a huge difference to people’s lives.

“Maybe most importantly, you are making sure that children can eat. More than a third of the people we’ve helped to feed have been children.”

The foodbank has seven distrbution centres, while people can also collect their food from the main warehouse.

The centres are based across the area, at Kings Christian Bookshop in Kings Langley, St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Tring, in Hemel at the Civic Centre, the Southfield Centre, DENS Day Centre, and Way Inn book shop in Berkhamsted.

Sharon said: “There’s no stereotypical type of person who uses a foodbank. Everyone is different, everyone is an individual, and it could happen to any one of us.

“Often it’s caused by people being made redundant, people who have to take time off work because they are unwell or to look after someone else who is unwell, or people who are short of money because of benefits delays.

“There was one case of a lady who lived in a million pound house and all the possessions you could want. But she was in an abusive relationship, her husband left and froze all the bank accounts, and she had children to feed.”

Foodbank facts:

* Each food parcel contains enough food for three meals for three days consisting of long-life, non-perishable foods based on nutritional guidance. The food parcels are an emergency response in a crisis;

*DENS operate on a referral basis, working with a number of agencies who assess the need and issue the vouchers. A key part of DENS’ work is trying to ensure that in addition to getting a food parcel the people helped should also get the help and support they need in their situation;

*The food parcels are packed in carrier bags so that when people collect their food from us it is not obvious that they have been to a foodbank.

How you can help:

If people would like to donate DENS accept long-life, non-perishable foods that are unopened and within their best before dates.

They are open for donations from Monday-Friday, 10am-midday, at The Hub, Paradise, Hemel Hempstead.

You can also support them financially by sending cheques to the same address payable to ‘DENS’ with a note to say you would like it used in the Foodbank.

For more information visit www.dens.org.uk