Libraries being used as food banks

The Brick food collection point at Wigan Library with ltr Coun Chris Ready, Trish Green manager of Brick, Kim Collins library services manager and Stuart Murray, chief executive WLCT
The Brick food collection point at Wigan Library with ltr Coun Chris Ready, Trish Green manager of Brick, Kim Collins library services manager and Stuart Murray, chief executive WLCT
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BOROUGH libraries are being pressed into service as feeding stations.

In a pioneering move prompted by the ongoing economic downturn, Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust is working with homelessness charity The Brick to use its public buildings as collection points for food donations.

The food will be donated to The Brick’s Food Bank and be distributed to families and individuals in desperate need of support.

Kim Collins, customer service manager for WLCT, which manages the Library Service on behalf of the Council, said: “The Brick has been doing some outreach work with homeless people from the libraries for some time now.

“We believe that libraries are at the heart of the community and so we decided to contact the charity to see if there was anything else we could do to support them. They suggested the Food Bank collections which we thought was a good idea.”

Libraries in Atherton, Leigh and Tyldesley are already taking part in a similar food collection service but those collecting for The Brick Food Bank will be Ashton, Golborne, Hindley, Lamberhead Green, Marsh Green, Shevington, Standish and Wigan Library.

Based on Arcade Street in Wigan town centre, The Brick collects food which is then made up into parcels designed to last for three days.

Trish Green from The Brick said: “It is very much a crisis service for people who have fallen on hard times for whatever reason. People are referred to the Food Bank from organisations like local housing associations, the job centre, Wigan Life Centre and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. We take their details and make up parcels to suit their specific needs.”

Traditionally seen as a support service for the homeless, Trish says the range of people using the food bank has changed drastically in recent months.

“We have been operating since 2008 but recently we have seen more families, more young people and people who have lost their jobs using the service,” she said. “It also affects every part of the borough and we distribute food parcels throughout different communities, not simply the more deprived areas.”

In the last fortnight alone The Brick has distributed more than 200 parcels to people in need and Trish fears the demand for the service is only going to increase in the short-term.

“We are really pleased that the Library Service has come on board and agreed to do this,” she says. “Sadly, due to the demand, we need all the help we can get.”

The library scheme is simple – people using the libraries can donate tinned or packet food by placing it in the specially designated box. The Brick’s Food Bank cannot take fresh food, so donations need to be tinned, dried or in packets.

Because the service is dealing with a lot more families they would also welcome donations of essential items such as nappies and toiletries.

Wigan Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure, Coun Chris Ready, paid tribute to those behind the project and appealed to members of the public to help.

“This is one of those projects that we really do wish wasn’t needed but sadly it is,” said Coun Ready. “The council and its partners are doing all they can to help homeless people and people in need in our borough but of course we cannot act in isolation.

“Society’s problems are everyone’s responsibility and this scheme is a great way for people to get involved and make a difference to someone else’s life. We are relying on the kindness of members of the public and library-users but we’re sure the response will be great. It’s only by working together that we can hopefully look forward to the time when food banks are a thing of the past, in the meantime I’d like to thank everyone in advance for helping out.”

People who may need to access the Food Bank service can find out more at their local Life Centre, the CAB or Job Centre Plus.

For more information on The Brick, visit the website: www.thebrick.org

The charity also has offices on Arcade Street opposite Wigan Town Hall which are open Monday to Friday between 9am and 12.30pm and from 1.30m until 4pm.