MKBLP members collaboratively raise £50k for MK Food Bank through funding and support
Louisa Hobbs, MK Food Bank’s Operations Manager, spoke at our Member’s Breakfast Briefing in May, almost 12 months on from her inaugural introduction to MKBLP. Speaking at an earlier breakfast briefing held at Bletchley Park last July, just a few months after winning The Charity of The Year at MKBAA 2022, Louisa emphasised her growing concern for the people of Milton Keynes in the wake of soaring demand for their services amidst the alarming cost of living crisis.
Louisa’s fear at the time that demand for the Food Bank services would rocket during the winter wasn’t unfounded. During the first quarter of this year, demand increased by almost 50% on the same period as last year and the number of households receiving support doubled.
Subsequent support from MKBLP members has resulted in significant funding and assistance which has added a huge amount of value: “Altogether, I’ve worked out, that in total, through direct funding and in kind support from this group - we’ve received, or are set to receive, around £50,000 over the last year. To put this figure into context, and demonstrate what this really means to us, I told you almost 12 months ago that it costs us £530 every day just to operate.
That means your support funds our costs - so keeps our vans going, pays our staff and bills and other costs - for one quarter of the year. Or if we look at it another way, in terms of equivalent food, it means that just over 3,000 people have been able to have a food parcel or do a top-up shop that wouldn’t have been able to if that funding wasn’t there.
For me, this demonstrates the massive impact that winning the MKBAA Charity of the Year award in 2022 - and the subsequent introduction to this group - has had and continues to have. And, if I were to also calculate the amounts raised through supporters who were introductions from this group, the figure would be much higher.
So, thank you all. Everyone should be incredibly proud. I am.”
Louisa went on to provide six examples of help and support pledged over the last 12 months as a direct result of MKBLP members.
- Red Giraffe: have built a brand new website for free and continue to support us with add-ons. This has saved us thousands of pounds in costs along with valuable training and ongoing support, which has been so helpful to us in getting our messages across.
- Holiday Inn: These have been long term supporters of the Food Bank. Directly after my introduction to Kevin last year, he offered to pay our full diesel costs every month which has made an immediate and obvious impact. In addition, we developed MK Food Champ with Kevin and the Holiday Inn team last year– a recipe competition for schools using food bank ingredients. The short listed dishes were created by the Holiday Inn and the children came with their parents for a judging tasting session. The real impact from this is that these recipes are now being made up into recipe packs which are sold at our top-up shops encouraging families to batch cook economically. Dozens of these have been distributed already, and we have had so much feedback from families who are now regularly making veggie curry or Mexican rice when previously they would have made expensive ready meals.
- Howes Percival: We were their charity of the year last year and received much needed food donations every month. In September, they teamed up with friends at Mercer and Hole, AFL Hyperscale, All Things Business, MK College, and PJ Care to walk 25 miles for the Food Bank raising an incredible £10,300.
- MK Snap: I met CEO, Angie Novell properly through this forum, and wanted to mention the very special relationship we have developed with MK SNAP ever since. Not only has she actively encouraged a lot of food donations, but Angie has also invited me to get involved with other networks, where I have been introduced to even more new supporters.
Also, we have recently established a brilliant working relationship with MK SNAP’s learners who now split teabags for us every week - this feels like a real win-win situation.
- Handelsbanken: Again, a long term supporter, but since I’ve met Lisa Robey through MKBLP this has really ramped up. We’ve built a fantastic relationship with everyone in the team and are developing a corporate driving rota for our mobile top-up shop. This team also gets a special mention for inviting me into their networks and literally heading straight to the shops to buy food when we hit a major crisis in March!
- NatWest: Last, but certainly not least. I met Duncan and Suzanne through MKBLP, and they’ve supported us since then with money, food and volunteering, but this culminated in great news when Duncan applied for national funding on our behalf from the bank’s cost of living fund, and in April we found out we’d been awarded an amazing £18,000 to support our mobile top-up shop which directly helps families struck by the cost of living crisis.
“There are many more examples on top of this, but I have only got limited time.”
While clearly grateful for the continued support, Louisa quickly pointed out that the business community of Milton Keynes cannot afford to rest on its laurels.
The recent shocking reports in the national media about Food Bank use in the UK, from news that the military are now relying on food parcels as the cost of living continues to bite, to the fact that 90% of UK food banks are at risk of turning people away due to the ever increasing numbers of people turning to them.
The Trussell Trust, which works to stop UK hunger and poverty, recently announced that, through their network of food banks - over 3 million emergency food parcels were distributed last year - an amount which has now exceeded the previous record figure given out at the height of the covid pandemic, and is the largest amount ever recorded in a single year.
As an independent charity which extends its reach across and beyond Milton Keynes, MK Food Bank isn’t part of The Trussell Trust but, as Louisa points out: “Our stats are telling the same story. In fact, we have also now reached a very unappealing milestone, and that is that our emergency parcel distribution has reached levels of demand not seen since the height of the pandemic in June 2020.”
Despite the much needed relief from MKBLP members, MK Food Bank is still seeing a significant gap between donations in and food out, leading to charity spending £20k every month on food to make up the shortfall. “Every single day, we need a minimum of 4,500 food items, £530 and 55 volunteer hours just to keep open. This just isn’t sustainable without regular support of food, money, and time from the community.”
Louisa concluded by revealing an exciting, new initiative from MK Food Bank - MK CAN - which aims to mobilise the entire Milton Keynes Community, and support the thousands of households in crisis, by breaking the Guinness World Record for the longest continuous line of cans of food.
Currently standing at just over 90K – MK Food Bank hopes to smash this with an ambitious target of a 10km line, equating to more than 130,000 tins, and called for businesses, community groups, and Parish councils to adopt a section.
MK CAN will be launched on Wednesday 5th July at Campbell Park at 5pm. For information email firstname.lastname@example.org