Staff from the YMCA in Burton say they "didn't know what we did before" the Burton Mail's Feed Our Families appeal was run, aiming to make sure as few people go hungry at Christmas as possible.

Feed Our Families, which is now in its fourth year, this year is handing donated items from kind-hearted residents and businesses across Burton and South Derbyshire to the YMCA, as well as the South Derbyshire CVS, The Eaton Foundation and The Salvation Army in Burton.

The Burton Mail first launched the campaign in 2014 in a bid to 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.

There are donation drop-off points scattered across the area, including at school and supermarkets.

The YMCA has been part of the campaign since its inception, and has particularly welcomed the boost of food.

Andy Horsnail, the operations manager at the YMCA in Burton, said: "The Feed Our Families appeal is tremendous. I don't know what we did before it was done; how did we survive? I remember when I first took over helping out at the food banks, I had to go out to the supermarkets because the shelves were so empty.

"We were like that the whole time, now with the food coming in from the campaign, it's so brilliant. There are times when we have to put an appeal out, but never until sort of late summer time, around August, but then harvest comes in.

"It's only really when we run out of staple products, like tinned potatoes, then there's others we have plenty of, like beans! Now that so many people who need the support and help, I don't know what we'd do without it."

He continued to explain that the YMCA has experienced one of its busiest years ever, in terms of the number of people seeking help from the food bank, located at its Reconnect Centre base in Hawkins Lane, Burton.

The Burton Mail Feed Our Families Campaign 2017
Paul Laffey - Chief Executive of YMCA Burton
Burton YMCA chief executive Paul Laffey

The charity has reported a 30 per cent rise in demand for the emergency food parcels handed out to people in need, with a record 1,293 food packages being handed out.

Food parcels from the Burton YMCA has served 1,724 people, including 377 children and 202 families.

Mr Horsnail continued: "It's so lovely to be able to help others, and it's fantastic that the community supports us to let us support them; it's very humbling. And the fact of the matter is we've helped 1,724 people this year, up to the end of October.

"And we're just one food bank; you then do that all around the county, and all around the country – it's quite shocking really."

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

The Burton Mail was given a tour around the food bank, which offers four emergency food packages to people in need a year, but also insisted that no-one would be turned away if they urgently needed help.

A typical food parcel from the YMCA includes one litre of UHT milk, 25g coffee, 40 tea bags, 25g sugar, 175g of cereal, a tin of meat, potatoes, tomatoes, spaghetti, fruit, custard, cold meat and fish, a bag of pasta, a jar of pasta sauce, 500g of rice, packets of savoury pasta and noodles and a packet of biscuits.

It will also include two tins of vegetables, two tins of baked beans and two tins of soup.

Additional treats will be added if available, like jars of jam, packets of crisps, bar of chocolates, bottles of drinks and bottles of sauce.

The foodbank can be seen with full shelves at the YMCA
The foodbank can be seen with full shelves at the YMCA

Mr Horsnail continued to explain the system someone in need would go through should they approach the YMCA: "Every time anybody presents, we ask for identification because we need a name and address; we can check through our register to see when people have come before.

"If someone hasn't been in for a long time, we'll take them off. Sometimes people come in, and just the one if they're starting a new benefit claim, or starting a new job, or in-between jobs, they'll come in once and we'll never see them again.

"We do need identification, which is usually a utility bill, or some sort of official documentation so we know who they are.

"In terms of food parcels, we give out four to any one person each year. A food bank is about being in crisis, it's not there to subsidise your living throughout the year."

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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 with one day left where can you donate? We are appealing for people to buy one extra tin or packet of food and donate that. Of course, if you can afford more that would be brilliant.

There are drop-off points at Burton in Sainsbury's, in Union Street, and Sainsbury's, in Civic Way, Swadlincote.

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Editor Emma Turton thanks readers for their generosity

"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 didn't ask people for money or to dig too deep for the appeal: instead we asked our readers to buy an extra tin or packet of food 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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"We have had a great response and 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