Chordiality’s chosen charity

Chordiality is pleased to announce that its current adopted community organisation is Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank.

The choir, a regular supporter of the charity, donates monies raised at its concerts to the Food Bank which will also take retiring collections at the concerts.  More information about Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank can be found on its website or by contacting committee member Graham Walker on 07857 371420.

Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank

According to the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Households Below the Average Income Survey, in 2021/22, 4.7 million people in the UK, seven per cent of the population, were in what is regarded as ‘food insecure households’.  In simple terms, they could not acquire an adequate quality or sufficient quantity of food.  In 2019, the Bradford District itself was ranked fifth most income deprived and sixth most employment deprived local authority in England.  These statistics didn’t improve three years later when the DWP confirmed that 44,000 children in Bradford were living in poverty.  Against this background of need, charities like Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank have become a constant necessity as a fallback for many vulnerable individuals and families in the city.

Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank (BMFB) is a small registered charity, which is non-denominational and run entirely by volunteers.  It was founded by local man Lashman Singh, who, at the time, had already been volunteering in the food poverty field.  Lashman realised that although a small number of organisations offered food free of charge in Bradford city centre, the majority of vulnerable families and individuals were situated across the district with no provision at all.  And, with a handful of like-minded volunteers, Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank was born.

“Some organisations visit infrequently whereas others collect significant numbers of food bags every week,” says Helen Lynskey, who is the charity’s secretary and a trustee and was one of the original volunteers.  “A housing association worker may see over 50 clients a week who are all struggling and who all need help.”

The charity received advice from nutrition experts at Leeds Beckett University as to the best items to include in each food bag.  The content of the bags is also adapted to suit the clients as well, with more items going to a family of five and consideration is also given for people who are vegan or those on halal diets.

The Food Bank’s secretary Helen Lynskey (right) receiving the choir’s donation of £1,000 from choir member Anne Copley.

Demand is high and can sometimes outweigh supply and there is a delicate balance that is ever present and needs to be maintained.  “We have strong relationships with our third-party organisations,” says Helen, “and we ask them to use us sparingly and only when needed.  It works really well because we get to know the organisations and they see that we might be running low and we rely on them to act in good faith.”

One of the major reasons that the Food Bank works with recognised organisations is that the charity is relying on these organisations to be already working with the vulnerable individuals as to why they are in a food poverty situation and be encouraging them to address the wider issues and causes.  The charity also has connections with local businesses, who offer to store the food on behalf of the Food Bank, which enables it to be able to buy in bulk.

Volunteers are critical to the Food Bank’s operation.  “We wouldn’t be able to exist without them,” says Helen.  “The whole Food Bank functions because of them.  All the committee roles, the bag packers, the people who go to supermarket collections are volunteers.  Even the people who give talks on our behalf.  Currently, we have about 50 people registered.  Some just help from time to time, whilst others, like the people who pack the bags, are present every week.”

Twenty years on the Food Bank is busier than ever.  Today, the charity works solely through recognised professional organisations, not directly with the clients.  These organisations are required to register with the charity and they come from many different fields.  Organisations that look to the Food Bank include schools, mental health services, district nurses, probation workers, faith leaders of all denominations and housing association workers who support people with their tenancies.

Although the Food Bank has seen increased demand for its services, particularly in recent years, it’s not all doom and gloom.  The charity constantly receives positive feedback from people who needed the Food Bank in times of trouble, but who are now back on their feet.  Many now donate to the charity themselves.

“At a supermarket collection, passersby will come forward with their own stories,” says Helen.  “‘You helped me in a really bad time in my life’, they will say.  Sometimes we will be left small personal notes of appreciation.  It all makes it feel worthwhile.

“In all honesty, we would be happy to disband as an organisation now, if there wasn’t a need.  But we continue, because we know there is.”