Food bank workers in Burton and South Derbyshire have been hailed "unsung heroes" whose efforts help provide 4.1 million hours of unpaid voluntary work across the UK every year.

Local food banks have had their efforts recognised after a new study revealed volunteers put in a "staggering" 4.1 million hours every year distributing food, fund-raising and other duties.

The value of the work has been estimated at £30 million a year if the volunteers were paid the national living wage. More than 700 independent food bank centres are now in operation, as well as the Trussell Trust's 1,235, with the number of people needing emergency supplies increasing dramatically as Universal Credit rolls out.

Paul Laffey, chief executive of Burton YMCA, which has been operating a food bank in the town for the last 16 years, said: "it simply would not operate without the valuable volunteers.

"Each person contributes in amazing ways from assisting to sorting the donated food into date order, making up emergency food parcels for each individual and family and liaising with staff on the distribution of the food.

"These are the unsung heroes of this type of work. They step up and contribute their time because they see that there is a need.

"The YMCA was delighted earlier this year to award one of our dedicated volunteers, Chris, the honour of "Adrian Bader - Volunteer of the Year". She was nominated by a number of staff because of her commitment, dedication and service to others.

"We saw that gradually she would come in extra days to support other volunteers and was very soon giving 35 hours a week to the food bank. That is a huge amount of voluntary contribution and Chris is just one of 10 amazing food bank volunteers that the YMCA would not be without."

Food banks require a rank of food products, including pasta and rice
Food banks require a rank of food products, including pasta and rice

Samantha Stapley of the Trussell Trust, said: "It is astonishing to see a value put to the amazing and tireless work done by food bank volunteers up and down the UK.

"Without this vital community support hundreds of thousands of people would be hungry, and with nowhere to turn.

"But it is equally important to remember that whilst food bank volunteers do inspiring work, they cannot replace the welfare safety net.

"Issues with benefit payments remain the main reason why people need a food bank parcel, and with issues caused by Universal Credit increasingly reported by food banks as a concern, we urge the Government to take steps to make sure people don't face going hungry."

The typical contents of a food parcel
The typical contents of a food parcel

The Burton Mail is currently running its Feed Our Families campaign to help local food banks feed families in Burton and South Derbyshire who may have fallen on hard times in the run-up to the festive period.

The campaign, now in its fourth year, will be sharing all items donated between the South Derbyshire CVS, The Eaton Foundation, The Salvation Army in Burton and Burton's branch of the YMCA.

How can you donate to Feed Our Families?

For many people Christmas is a happy time, but for some it can be anything but.

A few pounds could be the difference between a family in need eating or going hungry. Just 50p could buy a tin of soup, and help keep a child warm. So where can you donate? We are appealing for people to pop one extra tin in their weekly shop and donate that. Of course, if you can afford more that would be brilliant.

There will be drop-off points at Burton in Sainsbury's, in Union Street, and Sainsbury's, in Civic Way, Swadlincote, with many more businesses soon expected to get involved.

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If you are a pupil at a local school, check if there is a donation point there and if not, ask your teachers to get your school involved.

Punch Taverns is backing the campaign, as are schools including Granville Academy and Paulet High School.

We want you, our generous readers, to also donate, whether that be setting up a collection point at your youth club or in the pub. If you want to get involved, please contact reporter Rhea Turner on 01283 245047 or email rhea.turner@burtonmail.co.uk

And over the next few weeks we will bringing you stories of everyone who donates.

Editor Emma Turton calls for readers to back Feed Our Families

"After the incredible success of last year's Feed Our Families appeal it was a no-brainer that the Burton Mail would launch and run it again for 2017.

"We know finances are still tight for a lot of our readers, so we are not asking people for money or to dig too deep for the appeal: instead we are asking our readers to buy an extra tin or packet of food when they do their weekly shopping and drop it in to one of the collection points.

"We want to make sure the food banks in Burton and South Derbyshire have plenty of produce this Christmas, ready to be handed out to the people in our community who really need it this festive season.

"The response last year was phenomenal, the charities which shared the donations were overwhelmed with the generosity of our readers: we hope to match or beat last year when more than 15,000 items were donated.

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"Already we have several schools, supermarkets and major employers in Burton and South Derbyshire on board.

"They have offered to set up donation boxes or run a donation day to boost the campaign.

"It really is fantastic to see, yet no surprise.

"I want to thank, in advance, every single reader who donates to make sure the most needy in our communities have food in their cupboards this Christmas."

What can I donate to Feed Our Families?

For those of you who have made the generous decision to give something to the needy this Christmas, you may be a bit unsure of just what the food banks are after to get the most out of the foods. Therefore we have produced a list of non-perishable items that will be gratefully received.

Items which you can donate:

  • UHT milk (500ml or 1 litre cartons or screw top bottles)
  • Coffee
  • Teabags
  • Sugar
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Tinned meals
  • Tinned meat for Irish stew, chilli con carne, spaghetti bolognese, ravioli, macaroni cheese
  • Tinned hot dogs
  • Minced beef, curry, meatballs, etc
  • Tinned pies
  • Corned beef
  • Tinned or packet vegetables
  • Tinned fruit
  • Tinned tuna, salmon, sardines, etc
  • Soup
  • Baked beans
  • Spaghetti
  • Spaghetti hoops
  • Pasta
  • Pasta sauce
  • Rice
  • Savoury rice
  • Noodles
  • Pot Noodles
  • Rice pudding
  • Custard
  • Biscuits
  • Cereal bars
  • Crackers
  • Crisps
  • Chocolate
  • Jam