Sheffield food bank opens allotment to feed hungry families

Allotment volunteer Dennis Hanna and volunteer coordinator Sue Rose
Allotment volunteer Dennis Hanna and volunteer coordinator Sue Rose

A Sheffield food bank is growing its own fruit and veg in an allotment because it can’t keep up with demand.

The S2 food bank, based on the Manor, is struggling to provide for hungry families living in poverty. It is desperate for provisions for its food club, where families can buy a basket of shopping at heavily discounted prices.

Now organisers have come up with the innovative idea of creating an allotment to grow more food, with the added bonus that it’s fresh and healthy fruit and veg.

Sue Rose, known as Rosie, is HR manager and volunteer coordinator with Green Estate CIC, a social enterprise based at Manor Oaks. She became involved with the food bank three years ago and has seen demand grow.

“This is one of the worst deprived areas in Britain and we see 65 people of all ages each week over the three days that we open.

“Along with the food bank, we have a food club where people can buy £30-£40 worth of fresh food for £2.50.

“We have 25 families in the food club but we spend £150 a week because we don’t get many donations as people are struggling.

“This year we are short of 3.6 tons of food. If I can bulk that out, we will have more money to spend.”

Local churches, firms and occasionally supermarkets donate food but the allotment will provide a supply of free food from next spring.

Rosie said: “People are very vulnerable, 85 per cent are in some financial debt and with 40 per cent it’s because of a delay in benefits.

“We try to tackle people’s issues with the help of a Citizen’s Advice Bureaux worker and we have a 12 week system where they get referred by social services, GPs and schools.

“On that first referral we don’t put any pressure on people and they can get four weeks of food parcels.

“On the fifth week we ask them to bring all their paperwork in and if they have debts the CAB worker will start the process of helping them.

“By week 12 all their debts or benefits claims should be sorted and they can move to the food club.”

People will be encouraged to help on the allotment and Rosie hopes it will also tackle mental health problems, depression and social isolation.

“People at the food club physically pick up a basket but may not have shopped for months apart from a bottle of milk in the corner shop and can feel unconfident.

“We do sessions with them on cooking, portion sizes and reheating leftovers and hopefully we’ll now show them how to use food which they have grown.”