Bishop's Castle food bank volunteers celebrate one year helping community

Bosses at Bishop's Castle food bank have looked back on a successful year as it celebrates its one year anniversary of helping local people.

Bishop's Castle Food Bank. From left are Chris Moore (volunteer), Mandy Bryce (volunteer coordinator), Andy Stelman (coordinator) and Lorraine Hedge (volunteer coordinator)
Bishop's Castle Food Bank. From left are Chris Moore (volunteer), Mandy Bryce (volunteer coordinator), Andy Stelman (coordinator) and Lorraine Hedge (volunteer coordinator)

The food bank was set up in April 2020, both in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and as a way to support anyone in the town who needed access to food bank services.

Andy Stelman, co-ordinator at the food bank, said the support from the community has been immense and shows one good side to the pandemic.

"It all started because we couldn't understand why there was a food bank in Clun, but not in Bishop's Castle," he explained. "I contacted the Clun trustees just before Covid hit, to see if they would not feel like we were stepping on their toes by setting one up. But they were pleased because some of their volunteers were having to step down and things so it was all perfect timing really.

"The food bank opened on April 9, and we started with three customers. This week on our Wednesday session we fed 76 customers, and we average for each of our two sessions a week around 56 customers.

"We have three principles. Firstly, no one has to be referred – they can come and ask and they will get food. Secondly they never need to provide evidence that they need food, and thirdly they can choose what they like when they come in."

Andy and his team of around 25 volunteers strive to create a welcoming atmosphere, whether people are collecting food or just fancy a chat, to remove the stigma surrounding food bank usage.

"Some people just like to come and chat if they live on their own and likewise, we want people to know we are thinking of them," Andy said. "It's unfortunate anyone needs a food bank but I hope we are giving a good service.

"The town and the surrounding villages have been so generous it's unbelievable, in terms of donations, money and their free time. It's the best side to Covid."

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