The founder of a Leicester food bank has opened up about the struggles which have led to her having to close the facility to the public, due to “impossible demand”.
Since 2020, Donna Elliott has ran New Parks Community Mission Food Bank from New Parks Club – a venture she began when the country first went into lockdown.
The organisation started out feeding just eight families. However, over the past year, Donna and her nine volunteers, have seen demand increase dramatically, to the point where they are now looking after 154 families.
It is an “impossible demand,” which has led to her having to announce that although the food bank will still provide for its most vulnerable families, it can no longer open to the general public.
“We rely entirely on donations and just can’t keep up with the demand, it’s impossible. We’re fighting a battle that we’ll never win,” she told the Leicester Times.
“We’ve got no money, and no stock, and it’s becoming such a stress and a struggle to find help for others.
“To feed our food bank, we need to fill 60-70 shopping trolleys a week and without funding it’s just impossible to keep up with influx, especially now with the cost of living,” she went on to reveal.
As well as struggling with physical demand, Donna admits that the stress caused by “fighting a losing battle” has also taken a toll on her mentally.
“I need to take a step back and focus on my own health at the minute,” she said.
“Running the food bank is a full time position – 40 hours plus, and there’s no knock off time – you always get phone calls, you always get messages and it’s all voluntary. It’s literally running a business for nothing more than knowing that your community is provided for,” said Donna, who has a two-year-old son.
“Obviously it’s had a knock on effect on my family life as well. As a family, we’re struggling to survive ourselves. It’s not even heat or eat, it’s basically just how to survive and how to get by now. We just can’t afford to help the community anymore, which is sad,” she added.
The New Parks Community Mission Food Bank, is still operating, Donna is keen to point out. However, it is now only able to support the most vulnerable, which is around 50 families.
She advises those who are struggling to access other food banks in the area, which have the advantage of being funded.
This includes one at New Parks Methodist Church, which operates 1-3 every Thursday.
“We’ve not shut down fully, we’re just helping those that we can, the most vulnerable,” she said.
“It’s really sad that we’ve had to do this, but a lot of our members understand. Unfortunately I just can’t do it anymore. Even with all the help, the volunteers are amazing, but running the operation and being in charge is so stressful.
“It’s become a battle – to feed people and help people. Trying to survive on fresh air – it literally is just impossible now and something had to give.”