The Holiday Food Club, formerly Dorchester Lunch Club, changed tack this year by providing weekly food parcels to struggling families. In previous years, the club provided cooked meals to children during the holidays who received free lunches during term-time.
Karen Weir, founder of the Holiday Food Club, explained the reasoning behind the change.
“We didn’t seem to reach people that needed it,” she said. “So we came up with the idea of a food parcel, where people don’t have to come every day to get a meal. They can just come and get the parcels of food.”
Mrs Weir added: “It’s less embarrassing for people. It’s more of a community thing.”
No one makes you feel like you’re judged.
Vicky Bird, who used the Holiday Food Club this year, identified the increase in demand as a factor making the experience less stigmatising.
“Knowing there was more people made it easier to walk in and not feel uncomfortable,” she said. “Seeing friendly faces makes a huge difference. No one makes you feel like you’re judged.”
In contrast to the Holiday Food Club, Dorchester Food Bank offers short-term provision all year round. It accepts referrals from agencies like doctors or housing associations.
A solution to a temporary problem
John Weir, Treasurer of Dorchester Food Bank and no relation to Karen, explained that they offer provisions for a maximum of four weeks.
“We want to know somebody is helping these people get out of the problem they have,” he said. “We’re happy to give support while that problem is being sorted.”
Mr Weir described demand as “very up and down” with a definite increase within the last year, which he attributes partly to delays in universal credit payments.
Both organisations receive donations from local churches, schools and individuals.
In light of increasing demand, Mrs Weir is hoping to expand. “I’m thinking about a clothes bank type thing; school uniforms, coats, shoes,” she said.