Bath MP Wera Hobhouse visited Mercy in Action, a Bath-based charity running a successful food pantry on Lower Bristol Road. Wera Hobhouse said: “Mercy in Action are doing amazing work supporting our hardest hit families. Many have struggled through lockdown, but some are now facing a crisis. Constituents have told me that they will prioritise rent and bills over food if they are struggling which is deeply worrying.”
The charity is working with FareShare South West who provide food that is oversupply from production for their food pantry, called Action Pantry. Mercy in Action Director Allison Todd said: “Unlike a food bank, where you have a restricted number of visits and get a box of food, our Action Pantry members pay £3 to join and can then come and choose food to suit their needs. Members are usually referred to us by other services, or Bath and North East Somerset Council.”
Started 25 years ago to support street children in the Philippines, Allison and her husband John have since expanded Mercy in Action in the UK. Under the banner Petra, they have five houses for homeless young mums. They now have 26 charity shops across the west of England, of which 23 have reopened after lockdown, including the one in Bear Flat in Bath.
John Todd said: “All the shop donations we receive come to our site on the Lower Bristol Road. First they have to be quarantined for 72 hours, so that any trace of Covid-19 is rendered harmless. Then they can be sorted. Sorted items are then returned to the shops for resale. It’s a very sustainable way of doing things. Very little leaves here as waste, and the income generated pays for all the services we offer, such as the food pantry.”
Allison Todd said: “It’s such a shame that so many children are going hungry. Many families can’t survive on a single low-wage salary especially when a family member has additional needs. One parent has to be at home. A lone parent in such a position has no options at all. Many of our local schools also have expensive uniform requirements, which can make putting a child through school very costly. So we offer as much support as we can, for example by running the children’s clothing section of the pantry. We are extremely grateful to St John’s Foundation for funding the essential core costs of Action Pantry.”
Bath MP Wera Hobhouse said: “We saw Universal Credit claims rocket by 86% in Bath and North East Somerset during the first three months of lockdown and we’re staring at the cliff-edge of furlough coming to an end. We know that Citizens Advice are preparing for a 60% increase in debt enquiries, and that we’re in a mental health crisis. So the vital work of charities like Mercy in Action, and all those involved in BaNES 3SG, is going to become more important than ever. I want to commend the tremendous contribution made by all their staff and volunteers to our community.”