Noor Foodbank: The charity feeding Preston 62,000 meals a year
According to the World Bank, nearly two million people in the UK are undernourished and an estimated 8.4 million people struggle to get enough to eat. For the planet's fifth-wealthiest country, those statistics make for harrowing reading. But a food bank in Preston is out to make a difference.
Established in July 2018, Noor Foodbank provided some 62,000 meals to 507 adults and 356 children in its first year, helping helping an average of 172 people per month. A non-profit organisation run entirely by volunteers, the group's mission is to do their utmost to combat food poverty in the city by working with local and national grocers and businesses.
"I'm Preston born and bred, and we wanted to give something back to the community," said Imran Master, one of seven founding members of the registered charity. "Food poverty stood out as an issue; a few of the guys went out a visited two or three food banks to look at how they operated, what we needed to do, and then we got the documentation and that was it.
"We made the decision and ran with it."
Sadly, food poverty in the UK is on the rise. The Department of Health defines food poverty as the inability to afford, or to have access to, food to make up a healthy diet, with some 2,000 food banks now operating across the country in an effort to curb the impacts of a lack of nutrition.
And it doesn't just affect those who are homeless - increasing numbers of people in full-time work, families with children, disabled people, and the elderly are being impacted with a leading academic calling the situation a public health emergency earlier this year.
"There's the quote attributed to The Prophet Muhammed (peace and blessings upon him): 'he is not a believer whose stomach is filled while the neighbour to his side goes hungry'," added Imran, 40. "When you look at the social aspect of life, it made us ask what we could do to give back to the community and do something to benefit the needy. That quote is ingrained, it's our ethos: to provide. It's part of our religion, that our neighbour should not go hungry, so we took it forward."
Accepting all fruit and vegetables, halal meat, fish, and toiletry items, the food bank, based at at Noor Hall on Noor Street in Deepdale, is supported by the likes of UCLan, Sainsbury's, the EFL, Lidl, and Morrisons. In the 12 months after starting, the food bank's 30-odd volunteers, some as young as five, donated an estimated 15.5 tonnes of food.
These truly are life-changing figures.
"The reaction has been absolutely fantastic," Imran, a bid manager who works on proposals and tenders, continued. "The support we've had from the local community, local businesses, and the local supermarkets has been great. Many people donate on a regular basis, giving bags of food, and businesses have donated money so we can go out and buy products ourselves."
Earlier this year, Noor Foodbank was named as a finalist for the Community Group of the Year award at the 2019 Fusion Awards. Recognition of their sterling work is apt: just weeks ago, the charity held a food drive at Asda Fulwood, collecting 170 crates-worth of food and toiletries via donations from the generous local shoppers and the group is aiming to get involved in more projects over the Christmas period.
"It really shows there the spirit of helping the needy, and it was again proven at our recent Asda food-drive," said Imran. "There's a need for food banks, and the support, generosity, and feedback we got from people was fantastic. It's nice to see Preston coming together to help.
"We provide a service to everyone; we don't discriminate against anyone - anyone in need can use us," Imran added. "[The statistics] show that there is a need out there; 62,000 meals in one year is a staggering figure, and those using the food bank are not always homeless, the come from a variety of backgrounds.
"The food bank operates in Preston for the people of Preston."