Foodbanks helping people in need throughout pandemic have ‘done Portsmouth proud’ say officials honouring volunteers at special civic reception held at city’s Guildhall

FOODBANK volunteers who worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic were honoured at a special celebration.

Friday, 29th October 2021, 4:27 pm

Organisations across the city were welcomed to Portsmouth Guildhall as they were thanked for their work providing food parcels, community meals and other support to people in need.

Dozens of representatives from foodbanks, pantries and larders enjoyed a social buffet at the civic reception hosted by cllr Frank Jonas, Lord Mayor of Portsmouth.

The mayor said: ‘The city owes you a lot. What you have done and continue to do is nothing short of amazing.

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From left: Neil Smart, Clare Carrabott, Amy Grindlay, and Clare Poole, from St Margaret's Foodbank. Picture: Emily Turner

‘Saying thank you isn’t enough.’

Amy Grindlay, foodbank manager at St Margaret's Community Church, attended the reception along with other members of the church team: Clare Carrabott, leadership team member, Neil Smart, supporting minister, and Clare Poole, a volunteer.

St Margaret's foodbank assists around 60 to 70 individuals, some of whom represent families, over the course of a week.

Amy said: ‘It started off as a shelf, but people gave so much - people just gave more and more.’

From left: Julie Wheeler, Mark Wheeler, Maggie Clayton, Becky Austin, and Melvyn Thomas, from the Salvation Army. Picture: Emily Turner

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Several volunteers from the Salvation Army’s Haven Foodbank also attended the Lord Mayor’s reception.

When asked how he felt to be honoured for his work, volunteer Melvyn Thomas said: ‘It’s quite a humbling experience.’

Julie Wheeler, volunteer and choir co-ordinator, said that Morrisons had offered ‘huge help’ with donations.

From left: Andy Payne, Lynda Payne, Julie Wilson, and Jo Green, from North End Pantry. Picture: Emily Turner

She added: ‘The kind of people you wouldn’t expect to see we would get at the foodbank in the pandemic.’

Melvyn and Julie were joined by fellow volunteers Mark Wheeler and Maggie Clayton, as well as Becky Austin, who said she had seen the number of people using the foodbank increasing since the pandemic began.

Attendee Jamie Andrews was representing Buckland Soup Kitchen at Buckland United Reform Church, which has about 15 volunteers.

He said: ‘It’s nice, it’s good to get recognised.’

From left: Peter McKenzie, Leanne James, the Lord Mayor, Debbie Wood, and Gisele Kennke, from Portsmouth Foodbank. Picture: Emily Turner

Four team members from North End Pantry at North End Baptist Church came to the reception, representing a wider group of 20 volunteers.

For a weekly membership of £4, members of the pantry can choose a selection of food with a value of £15 - £20 each week.

Andy Payne said that the pantry was driven not only by the need to help people but also to tackle food wastage.

The volunteer was joined by teammates Lynda Payne and Julie Wilson as well as manager Jo Green.

He added: ‘It’s a pleasure to help people out.’

Several volunteers from Portsmouth Foodbank were delighted to meet the Lord Mayor.

From left: the Lord Mayor, Jamie Andrews, and Gerald Vernon-Jackson. Picture: Emily Turner

Leanne James, the foodbank co-ordinator, attended the reception along with Debbie Wood, a Circle of Support partner, and volunteers Peter McKenzie and Gisele Kennke.

While Debbie says that it became ‘stressful’ operating the foodbank during the pandemic, it was ‘lovely’ to be recognised for their work.

Leanne said: ‘The first lockdown, the number of people using the foodbank went up - 90 vouchers in a two hour session on the busiest day.’

Peter worries about the continued need for foodbank support, and added: ‘The loss in £20 Universal Credit will make a difference.’

Cllr Chris Attwell, cabinet member for communities and central Services, was the impetus behind the civic reception.

He said: ‘We all owe a debt of gratitude to the wonderful charities, organisations and community groups who came along to yesterday's event.

‘I hope the civic reception, given by the Lord Mayor - who, when I asked to him if he would host, said yes immediately - goes someway to saying thank you.’

Representatives from other foodbanks, larders, and pantries across the wider Portsmouth area were also invited, including Caring Hands Foodbank at Family Church, LifeHouse at Portsmouth Vineyard, Sunday Suppers at St Simon's Church, Insight at St John's Cathedral, Friday Fridge at St Jude's Church, ICare at Havant Peace Centre, [email protected] at St Swithun's RC Church, Helping Hands, Portsmouth, the Landport Larder/Café at Landport Community Centre, and Red Cross Portsmouth, which did food parcel deliveries.

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, welcomed the guests to the reception while pointing out that more can be done ‘to make food affordable to people.’

He added: ‘Thank you everybody here for all you have done. I am incredibly grateful.

‘You have done Portsmouth proud.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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