Hundreds of families struggling to makes ends meet during the cost-of-living crisis have received thousands of pounds worth of emergency food supplies, thanks to the generosity of Tamworth Co-operative Society and its shoppers.
In the biggest ever logistical operation of its kind locally, 450 food parcels donated by the Society were delivered to nearly 40 schools in its trading area. The schools then distributed the parcels to the families of pupils they identified as most in need of help over the half-term holiday.
The supplies were taken from Tamworth Co-op’s town centre warehouse and dropped off at the Heart of Tamworth (HoT) charity’s community centre in Silverlink Road to be packed and sent out.
The charity says many parents are now relying on their children having access to breakfast clubs and free school lunches. As a result, outside term times they desperately need help to feed their children.
For the past two years the organisation has been responding to the crisis by putting together food parcels each containing £5-£6 worth of non-perishable items. Tamworth Co-op’s parcels contained food worth around five times that amount and included tins of soup, baked beans, sweetcorn, meatballs, spaghetti, pasta sauces, cream crackers, oats, cornflakes, milk, coffee, tea, biscuits and strawberry jam.
HoT, which is run by just two full-time employees, backed by a 140-strong army of volunteers, supports people of all ages suffering from ill health, addiction, bereavement, homelessness, financial worries and loneliness. It also runs a community café and pantry where users can purchase a bag of food for £5.
As well as providing all supplies for the half-term parcel drop, Tamworth Co-op donated a further £1,000 worth of food to the community pantry.
Catherine Smith, chair of HoT, said everyone at the charity was bowled over by Tamworth Co-op’s generosity.
“The economic climate has impacted heavily on our fundraising in recent years. Support from local businesses is exceptionally important to us, but local firms have also been hit by the pandemic period and the subsequent cost-of-living crisis.
“We can’t thank the Tamworth Co-op enough for donating such a huge amount of food and for helping with the deliveries too. The parcels are by far the biggest we’ve ever been able to hand out and more schools were involved this time too. This will come as a godsend to hundreds of families. They are in urgent need of help during school holidays. I’d also like to thank Hib whose staff also helped to pack and deliver the food to the schools. They have been a great supporter of ours.”
She added: “I think many local people are unaware of the level of poverty in their midst. It is a truly shocking situation. We know that some teachers have been bringing in food and even toasters from their own homes to give pupils something to eat. That’s how desperate the situation is right now.
“We had the pandemic, and then we’ve had record levels of inflation and soaring energy and food costs. It has caused a great deal of human suffering. We know of some teachers who have even been taking home pupils’ washing.”
Julian Coles, chief executive of Tamworth Co-operative Society, praised the efforts of staff in the food division.
“They have been extremely motivated and have worked hard on this project. It’s a great pleasure to support this vital initiative. It’s hard to comprehend that so many people in our area are suffering such a degree of poverty, but it’s so inspiring that an army of fantastic people in this town are doing everything they can to help.
The money for the project was allocated from Tamworth Co-op’s Community Dividend Fund which has raised more than £100,000 for worthwhile local causes over the past decade alone.
Mr Coles thanked shoppers at the Society’s 12 food stores for donating the dividends they earned on their purchases to the fund.
“Families living in the vicinity of every one of our stores will benefit from the money that our customers have helped to raise. I think they would be very happy to know that their contributions have been put to such good use.
“Supporting and caring for the local community has been a fundamental part of what we do since we were founded in the town by Reverend William MacGregor in 1886. He championed the plight of the poor in the Tamworth area and this particular project would have been very close to his heart.”
The following schools, all close to food stores operated by Tamworth Co-op, received food parcels to distribute to families on their doorsteps.
Tamworth schools: St Elizabeth’s Catholic Primary School, Moorgate Primary Academy, Lark Hall Infant and Nursery Academy, Flaxhill Junior Academy, Coton Green Primary School, William MacGregor Primary School, Ashcroft Infants and Nursery School, St Leonards Church of England Primary School, Florendine Primary School, St Gabriel’s Catholic Primary School, Bird’s Bush Primary School, Heathfields Infant Academy, Wilnecote Junior Academy, Lakeside Primary School, Millfield Primary School, Hanbury’s Farm Primary School, Longwood Primary School, Stonydelph Primary School, Glascote Primary Academy, Dosthill Primary Academy, Amington Heath Primary School, Woodlands Primary School, Ankermoor Primary School, Two Gates Community and Primary School, Three Peaks Primary Academy, Landau Forte Academy, Two Rivers School.
North Warwickshire schools: Kingsbury School, The Nethersole School, Birchwood Primary School, Wood End Primary School.
Lichfield schools: Whittington Primary School, St Michaels Church of England School, Five Spires Academy.
Burton area: William Shrewsbury Primary School, The Fountains Primary School, Rosliston Church of England School.