As part of our focus on local charities throughout the month, Caroline Fisher interviewed Neil Reid, of the Oasis Foodbank,to find out about the work they do in our town.
Caroline Fisher: Hello, who are Oasis and when were you established?
Neil Reid: Ok, well, Oasis was established about 3 years ago. We are part of north-west network of churches and we have our meetings at the Hilton hotel but our warehouse containing the food is housed on Dixon Road.
C.F: Do you stand out from other food banks in any way or do you stick to a particular programme?
N.R: The essential difference is we’re an outward focused group rather than inward focused. We’re a very community orientated, independent group and we aim to provide a similar package to what the frontline agencies (such as The Trussel Trust) do which is 3 days worth of food for a family of 4 containing: soup, rice, pasta, meat-based main meal type dishes, tinned veg etc.
C.F: How do your service users find you?
N.R: The Citizens Advice Bureau refers people, as does The Salvation Army and local health centres but what we were seeing is a lot of local kids going without breakfast too and so a relationship with Blackpool’s Surestart centres has grown out of that need. 9,000 kids in Blackpool are currently living below the poverty line and together we’re trying to help as best we can.
N.R: The supermarkets have been brilliant and we’ve done some awareness days at Asda and Tesco which gave us a brilliant opportunity and we got a great response from shoppers buying an extra tin to put in our trolley. We’ve also had support from Radio Wave who ran a campaign for a month making the issue widely known about kids. We had a huge response but the need is still massive, we’ve barely scratched the surface.
C.F: How do you raise funds?
N.R: At the moment we are largely self-funded and receive donations of food from the public, businesses and through negotiating with suppliers and organisations such as Fairshare who are also a not for profit group. They collect supermarket food with a short shelf life as it costs the supermarkets more money to dump in landfill making it cheaper to give it to Fairshare who then deal with organisations such as ourselves and share it out.
C.F: Are the coalition government’s austerity measures affecting you so far? Are you expecting a rise in demand once the cuts to the social fund take place next year?
N.R: We are already beginning to gear up for that in expectation. Blackpool Council’s budget will be cut by 15 – 20% and so there will be a bigger reliance on charities such as ourselves, in terms of the austerity measures. I absolutely advocate those who can work should be encouraged to do so but a living wage is important too.
C.F: Are things worse in the run up to Christmas?
N.R: I don’t think it will affect us radically differently. It is a time when people usually find themselves stretched. We’re not expecting an increase in demand but in terms of receiving extra donations people tend to feel they are unable to be as charitable because of financial commitments.
C.F: What can the public do to help?
N.R: We can receive help in a number of ways: 1. donate food 2.donate financially – we can use this to partner up with other companies to bring food in 3. volunteer time or energy to help us out.
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