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Wisbech travellers' community make massive contribution to town's foodbank with 'Trolley Challenge'




A local food bank has been overwhelmed with the generosity of the traveller community after receiving more than 50 trolley-loads of goods in just three days.

Representatives from Wisbech food bank at Asda with donations that have been made....left to right Margaret Gibbs, Theresa Dare, Trevor Wright and Sue Kerridge. (5728860)
Representatives from Wisbech food bank at Asda with donations that have been made....left to right Margaret Gibbs, Theresa Dare, Trevor Wright and Sue Kerridge. (5728860)

Members of the Wisbech traveller community have embraced the “trolley challenge” set-up by a traveller from Bishop Auckland, which encourages members of the gypsy community to donate food to food banks in the lead-up to Christmas.

It is run on the lines of the ice bucket challenge which went viral in 2014, with individuals filling a trolley of food and then nominating four friends or relations to do the same.

The challenge has really taken off in Wisbech with travellers donating more than 50 trolley-loads between Thursday and Saturday – and it is still going strong.

Suzanna, 7 and Larosa Smith, seven months, help with the Trolley Challenge. (5765544)
Suzanna, 7 and Larosa Smith, seven months, help with the Trolley Challenge. (5765544)

Among those to take part is young mum Crystalsuzanna Smith who, with her children Suzanna and Larosa, filled a trolley at Asda, which is where the large majority of donations have been made.

She said: “I’ve always been proud of being a traveller but it’s times like this that make me extra proud. I was nominated by Patricia Stewart from Darlington. I really think it’s a brilliant thing to do for the less fortunate at Christmas.

“Gypsies and travellers really don’t get anything good said about us. People tar us all with the same brush. The way I see it, there is good and bad in everyone – we live in a world where it’s accepted racism.”

Margaret Gibbs, Wisbech Food Bank co-ordinator, said they have been overwhelmed with the generosity – many of the trolleys contained food worth over £200 or £300.

She said the extra food is extremely welcome as they are seeing more and more people through the door and are expecting the numbers to rise further when Universal Credit – which has only recently been introduced in the town – really kicks in.

She said: “I think some people’s perception of the food bank is that it’s a big shop and people come and help themselves. Actually, a voucher is needed to get food. These are obtained from a variety of agencies that work with us, including Jobcentre Plus, CAB, Rosmini Centre, some schools, doctors’ surgeries, and churches.

“A person is entitled to three vouchers in six months. This is not because we are restricting access, but we need to know they are working with the agency who referred them to address why they need to use the food bank and to help solve the problem.

“We are a crisis organisation, not one that feeds the same people every week. We would prefer there wasn’t a need to use a food bank but, all the time there is, we will continue to help those at crisis point.

“A voucher provides a three-day supply of nutritionally balanced food. When we have stock, we also give out nappies, baby wipes, toiletries, toilet rolls, cleaning materials and pet food. We adapt our bags for the homeless so they have ring pull cans and things that don’t need cooking.

“At Christmas we have all different foods, including mince pies, which are given on top of the three-day supply. A lot of the food donated through the trolley challenge has included treats like biscuits and chocolate, which means families will be getting those on top of the normal supply over Christmas.

“In fact we have had so much we will be able to give out treats well into the New Year. We really can’t thank the traveller community enough. In the summer we were struggling for supplies and even had to go to King’s Lynn to get extra food to see us through.

“In October, we fed well over 200 people. In the last financial year, we fed 2,484 people. We have already fed 1,803 this year – an increase of roughly 20 per cent over last year’s figure. “

The food bank always need volunteers. If you can spare an hour or two to help with collections, sorting food or giving out food then contact: info@wisbech.foodbank.org.uk or call 07933 572054.



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