A service today marked the 10 year anniversary of Coventry Foodbank, honouring the churches, volunteers, donors and partners who have served those in need over the last 10 years. With speeches heard from Dean of Coventry Cathedral the Very Reverend John Witcombe, the event also saw video messages of thanks sent in from prominent Coventry-born celebrities including ‘Nativity!’ director Debbie Isitt, comedian and actor Guz Khan, Peaky Blinders’ actor Graeme Hawley and BAFTA winning filmmaker Ken Loach.
The event also saw an address from the newly inaugurated Lord Mayor of Coventry, Councilor John McNicholas, and Christian comedian Tony Vino concluded the service with a short sketch. The story of the last 10 years was shared by Founder of Coventry Foodbank, Gavin Kibble, as well as volunteers who have served over the past decade. Gavin is set to receive an MBE for services to the City of Coventry, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, after recently being named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2021.
Speaking on the need for partnerships with foodbanks and churches in the city, the Dean of Coventry Cathedral, The Very Reverend John Witcombe said,
You bring real practicality to this city as a place of peace and reconciliation where so many people are able to thrive and play a part in the thriving of others… we can work together on our shared priorities of healing the wounds of history, learning to live with difference and celebrate diversity and building a culture of justice and peace for all. So our heartfelt thanks to you and all those with whom and for whom you work.
Coventry Foodbank was established at the start of 2011 by engagement with Coventry churches to help the increasing number of local people struggling to make ends meet. Over the last 10 years, through its 12 citywide food distribution centres – most of which are based in churches, the foodbank has seen nearly £3 million worth of food donated; creating food parcels for over 200,000 local individuals and families (including 80,000 children).
Founder of Coventry Foodbank, Gavin Kibble, shared his story in an emotional tribute to those who have served his vision and journeyed with him since the Foodbank’s creation:
In my professional career prior to starting foodbank I hadn’t really experienced the kind of serious poverty and the very real sense of a loss of hope that we saw in the lives of people so many we helped… The foodbank has proved to be very resilient and coped with the increase in demand as it has arisen on so many occasions, such as the during the pandemic and frankly and I am very proud of the team and many hundreds of volunteers who made all this possible.
Coventry Foodbank currently has over 180 volunteers, providing broad operational support, covering everything from logistics to administration. During the pandemic, the foodbank saw a 20% increase in the number of people needing help, with hundreds of new volunteers and ‘pop-up’ church initiatives stepping up to meet the greater need
Ben* is currently dependent on receiving food parcels in Coventry. He shared:
Life would just get harder and complicated without the foodbank… Circumstances with money and things going wrong can happen to everyone so I’m pretty glad that they’re around and can help people like me out.
In 2021, Coventry Foodbank became part of Feed The Hungry, a locally based humanitarian charity feeding over 330,000 children in poverty around the world.
Gwyn Williams, National Director for Feed The Hungry, reflected on the future of Coventry Foodbank saying,
In the next 10 years we are not interested in just providing a short-term emergency solution, but one that deals with the root causes of food poverty. Ultimately we want to journey with people from survival to significance and believe this journey is most effectively implemented when the local community, churches, and individuals act together.
The event will see the charity appeal to their Life Givers Campaign.
To find out more and/or donate please visit: coventryfoodbank.org.uk/life
To donate to Feed The Hungry, please visit: https://feedthehungry.org.uk/act/
To volunteer with Coventry Foodbank, please visit: coventry.foodbank.org.uk/give-help/volunteer/
Written by: Esther Jolliffe