CITY dignitaries and stars of screen have been helping Coventry Foodbank celebrate its tenth anniversary today and highlight the hard work of its dedicated volunteers over the past decade.
Since 2011, nearly £3million worth of food has been donated, creating emergency parcels for over 200,000 local people and families in need, including 80,000 children.
It has rapidly become one of the largest foodbanks in the UK with 12 distribution centres and 180 volunteers.
In the past 18 months it has seen a 20 per cent increase in demand with hundreds of new volunteers helping at ‘pop-up’ church schemes.
Today’s toast at Coventry Cathedral has been attended by city council leader, Coun George Duggins, Lord Mayor Coun John McNicholas and MP Zarah Sultana.
Special video messages have been recorded by Coventry-born celebrities including ’Nativity!’ director Debbie Isitt, Peaky Blinders’ actor Graeme Hawley, BAFTA winning filmmaker Ken Loach and comedian Guz Khan.
Mr Khan said: “Any individual or group of individuals who helped to cater for our most vulnerable in the city – you are top of my list of heroes.
“And if you really think about state of the country that we’re in at the moment how difficult things have been during a pandemic foodbanks have been fundamental to making sure people have enough food to eat enough to sustain their ability to get through the day.”
Mr Hawley added: “I think you can judge a society by the way it helps its most vulnerable and I have nothing but respect and admiration for all of you.”
The foodbank was started by Gavin Kibble who was, fittingly, made an MBE in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List on Saturday for his services to Coventry, particularly during the pandemic.
In an emotional tribute to everyone who has shared his vision he said: “In my professional career prior to starting the foodbank I hadn’t really experienced the kind of serious poverty and the very real sense of a loss of hope we saw in the lives of people we were helping.
“The foodbank has proved to be very resilient and coped with the increase in demand as it has arisen on so many occasions, such as the during the pandemic and frankly I am very proud of the team and many hundreds of volunteers who made all this possible.
“This caring army of local heroes, means we can bring transformation to our communities and give hope to those who need it.”
Hugh McNeill, Project Manager of Coventry Foodbank, said: “The needs are greater now more than ever.
“We’re looking ahead to the next ten years not just to provide a short term solution, but one that is both holistic and long-term.
“Joining with Feed The Hungry earlier this year meant that we can move forward to support individuals and families by dealing with the root causes of food poverty.
“Over the last 10 years we have learnt that this journey is most effectively achieved when the local community acts together in partnership.”
Coun McNicholas said: “To provide a decade of service to the people of Coventry is a very special achievement and everyone connected to the foodbank should feel very proud of all they have done.
“The volunteers selflessly dedicate their time and effort to show people that our city cares and that help is there when they need it and help to make Coventry the caring place that it is.”
The event will see the charity appeal to their Life Givers Campaign. To find our more, and donate please visit: coventryfoodbank.org.uk/life