STUDENTS at Haywood Academy are being asked to champion the work done by foodbanks and to break the stigma attached to using them.
The work of the foodbanks is particularly relevant in Stoke-on-Trent, as figures from April 2013 to the present show the Stoke-on-Trent foodbank had more than 8,000 users – the second highest figure in the West Midlands, while the centre in Newcastle-under-Lyme had 3,534 over the same period.
The call to action came from Anne Danks, Trussell Trust Foodbank Network manager for Northern England, who visited the Academy on Tuesday January 21st and appealed to our Year 11 learners to get involved with their local project.
As a former secondary school teacher herself, Ms Danks said it was important that young people played a part in busting the myths surrounding foodbanks.
She said: “Foodbanks are obviously a hot topic at the moment in the light of comments made by former MP Edwina Curry on BBC Radio Stoke recently, and it’s my job to help people realise foodbanks are not places used by ‘wasters’ and ‘scroungers’.
“The reality is our users are simply people who don’t earn enough because food and fuel prices have skyrocketed.
“The other common myth is that our system is open to abuse, but the reality is in order for someone to access a foodbank they have to be referred by someone who knows their circumstances such as a social worker or GP.
“It’s important people understand these myths, because it’s the public who buy the food we distribute and we rely on this support.
“As a former secondary school teacher myself, I know these issues are well within the understanding of young people.
“For some of them it will be the first time they’ve put themselves in someone else’s shoes, while some of them may have personal experience of foodbanks, although usually parents shield their children from the fact they’ve had help from us because peer pressure on young people means it can be embarrassing for them.”
She said schools had a key part to play in the success of their local foodbank and could get involved through volunteering, or simply by acting as ambassadors helping to educate other people in their community about the reality of foodbanks rather than the myths perpetuated by the media.
Jill Chadwick from Haywood Academy, who helped to organise the visit, said: “Anne’s presentation offered a great opportunity for our students to understand the reasons why people in our community end up in need of help and support, and to act on that knowledge.
“Part of our core philosophy at Haywood is to ensure our students develop into good citizens, and raising their awareness of the most vulnerable people in our society through activities like this is key to achieving that.”
Anyone interested in finding out more about the Stoke and Newcastle foodbanks or is interested in volunteering can log on to www.stokeontrent.foodbank.org.uk or www.newcastlestaffs.foodbank.org.uk