'We are here to serve the community': City food hub given hero award bags charity funding to renovate new community centre

A community food hub that was set up at the start of the pandemic to feed families in poverty in Preston has just been awarded lottery funding as volunteers make a home in its new premises.

By James Holt
Monday, 21st June 2021, 12:27 pm

After spending the past year using community centres across Preston and delivering bags of food to communities in need, the 'Here for Humanity' organisation has just opened their first new permanent base in the city centre after being awarded £10,000 of lottery funding.

On the border between Plungington and Ashton, the new community hub, on Eldon Street, is big enough to store donated food from the Fare Share organisation and provide a central space for the volunteers to work from.

It first started when founder Chris Murray lost his job and began cooking extra portions of food for his neighbours at the start of lockdown - and has now grown into a lifeline for many in Preston who have been hit hard by the pandemic.

This news comes as 'Here for Humanity' volunteers announced they had delivered more than 130,000 bags of food and cooked up over 42,000 hot meals for the community when they celebrated their one year anniversary in March.

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Speaking to the Post, Chris said: "We are so fortunate now to have our own base instead of having to rely on other people and pubs and community centres around Preston. As a group of volunteers, we first signed the lease for this building ourselves but are lucky that the first year of this will be covered by the new funding.

"We are much more than just a food bank, we want to bring this building into use for the community by offering spaces for other organisations and groups to use for different projects that matter to the community.

Founder Chris Murray in their new premises and community centre on Eldon Street

"The hub is on the ward border of Plungington and Ashton, so it is vital it is easily accessible to people from both communities and we hope people will reach out to use and make use of the space we have in a way that benefits the community."

Chris has plans to use their new community room for educational classes, working with local charities and organisations to run workshops focusing on topics such as mental health.

And since taking on the lease of the new community centre, where a year of rent will cost more than £7,000, the organisation was granted a £10,000 grant from the Lottery community fund following a successful application.

They were also granted £1,000 of extra support through the Arnold Clark Community Fund just last week.

The milestone that the organisation hit following their efforts during the pandemic

And today they were handed a Community Hero award by Coun. David Borrow, the Mayor of Preston, for their efforts feeding communities during the pandemic.

He is now offering memberships to low-income families in the area who pay a small weekly fee and have three bags of food delivered to their doorsteps and ensure they can feed their families.

Founder Chris has previously spoken to the Post about the past year, where he saw parents forced to skip meals to feed their children and families rely on food banks every week after difficult job losses.

Volunteers help feed more than 200 families every week in Preston

Chris added: "In our new centre, we have a food hub storage area where we can store all the food donated to us, including that from Fare Share that would have otherwise gone to landfill.

"From here, it is a lot more manageable instead of us relying on other people and businesses. Too many community centres are being closed down or aren't accessible, and we want to change that.

"We are still operating our hot food drop off for the extremely vulnerable in our community every week, but instead of cooking, we have been outsourcing to other businesses and collecting to the food - over the next eight weeks we have the Wee Chippy and Home Indulge cooking meals on Wednesday and Saturday.

"It is all about creating a space for people in the local community to come and go as they need. We needed a place to store all our donations and simply help get food parcels out to as many people as possible without being at the disposal of others.

"The new funding we have been granted is amazing and it takes the burden off us when worrying about paying the rent for the building this year. We were very pleased to be accepted because it is hard to pinpoint exactly what we do here - we serve the community as best we can on a day to day basis and respond to what need presents itself, from hot food deliveries, to food parcels and children's school meals.

"It is beautiful to see how much we have grown and how many families we have helped so far."

Founder Chris Murray receives a Pandemic Hero award from the Mayor David Borrow

Having previously operated weekly food bank hubs from Tanterton, Ashton and Plungington, the volunteers will continue to focus on families battling food poverty in these areas but will do so from their new central hub three times a week.

Planning summer events and initiatives, Chris is now using social media to reach out to people in the community and encourage them to help out and volunteer where possible.

Mayor Coun David Borrow, who visited the new community hub, said: "It was great to visit Here for Humanity in their new base. They have made a huge difference to communities who are struggling since they were founded in spring last year. I'm really pleased they have been awarded £10,000 in lottery funding to support their good work.

"The past twelve months have been a testing time for all of us, but there have been people and organisations across all of our communities who have stepped up to help others in many ways.

"In one way or another, we have all been affected by the pandemic. It has had an impact on our physical and mental health, restricted our freedoms, limited our businesses and taken the lives of loved ones.

"It's not over yet, but we would like to take a moment to show our appreciation for those who have gone above and beyond. This is an opportunity to recognise and honour individuals and groups whose efforts and gestures - no matter how big or small - have really made a difference in our communities.

"So many of you have done Preston proud and I would like to offer my personal thanks for every action you have taken, no matter how small, to support others through this time. I look forward to receiving a great many nominations."

The National Lottery fund has confirmed that Here for Humanity has been granted £10,000 of community funding.

Gillian Halliwell, Head of Funding for the North West of England at The National Lottery Community Fund said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, we are able to fund amazing community projects such as Here for Humanity which supports the community by providing a food bank service.

As we all adapt to profound changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling the stigma around food poverty and making it okay to ask for help is more important now more than ever.

At The National Lottery Community Fund, we believe that when people are in the lead, communities thrive and Here for Humanity is a great demonstration of that."

Find out more about the Here for Humanity organisation on their Facebook page.

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The lottery funding has helped build their new food hub in the city centre