The Somer Valley Food Bank has opened its doors to the first families struggling to put food on the table.
Today’s launch marked the end of six months of planning, with the first collection centre open in the tea rooms next to St Nicholas Church in Radstock.
The project is being led by local churches and is intended to help deal with the problem of increasing financial need in the area, whether due to redundancy or inadequate pension.
In the last year, the neighbouring Bath Food Bank issued 84 food vouchers to people living in the Midsomer Norton, Radstock, High Littleton Paulton and Peasedown St John areas.
Those vouchers have helped a total of 241 people - 136 of them adults and 105 children.
The new food bank will be working alongside 26 agencies which will assess needs and issue vouchers to those in need.
Co-ordinator Joy Fraser said: “The new food bank in the Somer Valley is the culmination of some very hard work by a number of volunteers who originally all came to the project from churches and other organisations in Peasedown, Midsomer Norton, Radstock and the surrounding villages. We are very grateful to everyone who has helped.”
A small team was formed to set up the food bank , identifying and preparing a store for food, collecting more than four tonnes of food, recruiting more than 100 volunteers, liaising with professional agencies which will issue the vouchers, raising awareness of the project, visiting other projects and setting up distribution centres.
It aims to provide three days of food as emergency help in a crisis.
Professionals such as doctors, health visitors, social workers, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and police identify people in crisis and issue them with a voucher.
This can be taken can be taken to a food bank distribution centre where the food has been collected through donations, or from volunteers.
The project is also working towards providing emergency boxes which can be provided to carry families over should there be a crisis at weekends when the distribution centres are closed.
Mrs Fraser stressed that any one needing the support would receive it in a non-judgemental way.
The other distribution centres are at the Salvation Army in Midsomer Norton, and Peasedown St John Methodist Church.
For more details ring 01761 433709 or go to www.somervalley.foodbank.org.uk.