The team behind a new housing development in Wichelstowe is helping to provide meals to struggling families across Swindon following a £500 donation to the Wroughton Community Pantry – a food bank set up by a local resident more than two years ago to help those in need.
Rosemarie Watson (75) launched an emergency response food delivery service for hard-up families after the government announced the end of free school meals during the 2020 summer holidays, a decision that left countless children and their families feeling vulnerable. With the help of her neighbour, Hannah Smith, she began to store food donations from the public in her garage before she assembled and hand delivered food boxes to families across the village.
Since then, the demand for food parcels has increased and so too has the community’s appetite to help out. With the support of the team at Elledune Community Centre, the Pantry was offered rent-free, long-term use of a room for the food bank set-up.
Today the Pantry provides food parcels to families in Chiseldon, Thorney Park, Wichelstowe and Wroughton, delivered to their doorstep by an eight-strong team of volunteers. Over the last couple of months alone it has supported 26 families - some on a regular basis, others as and when they’ve needed help.
Food packages are nutritionally balanced and are made up using donated items such as long life foods, canned items, convenience foods, eggs and dairy.
Rosemarie said the support the Pantry has received from the Wichelstowe Joint Venture team has been huge: “We provide emergency, non-referred food parcels to families who are in need immediately – they don’t have time to go through the referral process via a larger organisation so for many, we’re a lifeline.
“The Pantry exists on donations. Every week the Berkeley Farm Dairy gives us milk, butter and yogurts, we receive donations from schools’ Harvest Festivals, the local Youth Football group collect tins for us and during the summer months we get food from local allotments. At the start of the year, members of the community dropped food on my doorstep and we received private donations however, these are much smaller now for obvious reasons.
“The last few months have been hard because of rising energy bills. Young families and single people are struggling to manage on the benefits they receive. We regularly donate to a family with four small children but we’re frequently receiving new requests for support from people who have just heard about us. This £500 donation will go a long way to help those who need it most.”
Daniel Pavely, Project Director – Wichelstowe, added: “Wroughton Community Pantry has benefited from an overwhelming amount of food from the public and support seems to be ever growing. Community is at the heart of what we do and we’re pleased to be in a position to provide funding to help families in and around Swindon who are finding things tough at the moment.”