Almost a year to the day since Milton Keynes Council and local charity Milton Keynes Food Bank teamed up to offer more help to local people in crisis, the council is set to provide more support to the charity and others like it by covering the costs of premises and essential outgoings for the next five years.
Around £1 million has been set aside to help the Food Bank and other local charities establish firmer footings which will allow them to reach more people.
In March 2020 the two partners created Food Bank Xtra to cope with the additional demand experienced by the Food Bank due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Council helped with £50,000 of funding, additional staff and the temporary loan of its Saxon Court offices to act as a warehouse, alongside creating food distribution points at children’s centres around MK.
As a result, during 2020 Food Bank Xtra was able to help 3,750 households and deliver around 27,500 parcels, more than twice as many as in the previous year.
Now the arrangement at Saxon Court is ending and the charity has now outgrown its former premises. This week the council is set to make a formal decision on leasing a new 13,000 sq ft warehouse in Burners Lane, Kiln Farm that would become a base for Food Bank Xtra and other charities.
MK Council would also invest in the building to make it a more practical space, and in ongoing utilities costs. In the medium term the council is looking to create a permanent hub for a number of charities that it partners with.
As well as providing a new home for Food Bank Xtra, the site would also be a base for charity Baby Basics MK (which also currently operates from council premises) and St Marks Meals.
Baby Basics MK provides parents and carers in financial hardship with essentials including nappies, clothes, toys and equipment. The charity receives donations of new and second-hand good condition baby essentials which are carefully prepared into gift packages. As a result of working with MK Council over the pandemic, Baby Basics MK has been able to support over 1,000 children.
St Marks Meals wants to ensure that no child goes to bed hungry in Milton Keynes. Their recipe kit meal boxes are stored in over 60 schools, children’s centres and community hubs. As soon as a teacher or other professional realises that a child will not eat dinner that night, they can invite a family to choose from a selection of options. St Marks Meals distributed more than 560 boxes in the first six weeks of 2021 alone.
Council Leader Pete Marland said of the proposals “As demand sadly increases for the work of these essential charities, we want to make sure they can continue supporting local people in crisis so no MK family goes hungry or struggles without essentials. The most practical way we can do that is to look at giving them long term security, so they can focus on frontline work instead of worrying about keeping the lights on.
“The efforts of all MK’s charities and voluntary groups throughout the pandemic has been incredible, and we want to continue looking at practical ways we can support these and other groups going forward.”
A decision on the spend relating to the Kiln Farm premises will be made on 23 March.
How to use or support the charities mentioned:
Food Bank Xtra
Support at www.mkfoodbank.org.uk
Access help by calling Food Bank Xtra’s confidential helpline on 0300 303 4933 weekdays between 10am and 4pm.
Baby Basics MK
Support at www.babybasicsmk.org.uk
Access support by contacting your health professional, children’s centre or King’s Community Centre in Wolverton.
St Mark’s Meals
Support at https://localgiving.org/charity/stmarksmeals/
To access meals, ask your school or children’s centre if they are a partner.