December 1, 2023

Furniture Bank

Swing Your Furniture Bank

Food bank running for 28 years facing closure after ‘95% drop in donations’

A Welsh food and furniture bank which has helped struggling families for 28 years now faces possible closure, volunteers have said. Manager of the Raven House Trust food bank in Newport, Noreen Hinton, said they are in the midst of an unprecedented and unforeseen crisis after bills rose exponentially last month.

The charity is funded by sales of furniture via the shop attached to the premises on Cromwell Road in the city, as well as donations, but Noreen explained both have dried up while bills have risen – creating a perfect storm. Trustees have held an emergency meeting to draw up a rescue mission, but Noreen says it will not be possible without external support.

“As well as the food bank we do the furniture through agencies and put packages of four items of furniture together, many of which we give away,” Noreen explained. “That’s around £175 if we sold that furniture in the shop.”

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She added: “To be able to do that we have to have staff, a van, a premises, and we have to operate those financially. But our bills have gone up, our fuel has gone up, and our rent for the building has risen too since March.

“It all means that our reserves have dwindled to the point where we have a couple of months left if income levels remain the way they are now. It has happened really quickly in the last six to eight weeks. If you’d asked me two months ago if we were going to last 12 months I would have said ‘yes of course’.”

Volunteers for Raven House Trust at Tesco collecting donations

Noreen explained how struggles have worsened due to a confluence of issues caused in part by the Ukraine-Russia conflict and the cost of living crisis. It all means fewer people walking into the shop.

“Firstly we’re not seeing many people coming in and we’re not seeing donations at the levels they were previously. Donations have actually dropped by 95%. We’ve had many benefactors supporting us since 1994, but again we’ve seen that dry up massively.”

Pressure on food banks has been widely reported in recent months. Just yesterday WalesOnline reported on volunteers at a food bank in Swansea explaining how their shelves had been stripped bare within two hours of opening.

The empty shelves are an illustration of the pressure the cost of living crisis continues to put on families across Wales

Noreen said there has been no let up in those pressures since lockdowns of last year. “We are now doing 135 parcels a week,” she continued. “It’s normal people that you see everyday coming in needing support.

“We’d love to get more businesses helping us. We understand too that it is a very difficult time for them. Maybe £100 a month if possible, that would be so helpful.

“I think we all understand – quite rightly – that the events in Ukraine have taken people’s minds elsewhere and with that their donations. We do understand people are struggling and that they can’t give as they once did.”