SSEN funding helps expand Oxfordshire’s Good Neighbour Food Bank

Funding from Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has helped a South Oxfordshire parish council to support its vulnerable residents during the coronavirus pandemic through the expansion of a local food bank scheme. 

Springwater Church’s Good Neighbour Food Bank was under increased demand to provide additional assistance to community members who had been affected by the pandemic and worked with Sonning Common Parish Council, who successfully applied to SSEN’s Resilient Communities Fund for a £3,000 award. 

The funding enabled the two organisation and their volunteers to continue and increase the work of the food bank for the 3,780 strong local community, who worked together to donate, collect and deliver the items to those who had become vulnerable through issues of isolation, shielding or being unable to work. 

Their efforts continue to help 28 local families; providing them with the fresh fruit and vegetables, non-perishable food items and toiletries that they need on a weekly basis. Across the UK last year, over half of the people who had used a food bank had never visited one before. This increase has been felt locally, and the Springwater Church intends to keep the Good Neighbour Food Bank running for as long as it’s needed. 

Becky Jenkins, Deputy Clerk of Sonning Common Parish Council said: 

“When the pandemic hit, Sonning Common Parish Council reached out to its local residents to find out how it could help and where that help was needed most. It quickly became apparent that assisting the food bank was the main priority in the village, and we turned to SSEN and its Resilient Communities Fund for the extra help we needed to support the food bank due to the increased demand. 

“The food bank is now well-established through the ongoing work of their volunteers, so we intend to keep the Good Neighbour Food Bank open for as long as it is needed and would like to thank those who continue to give their time or donate goods. For now though, the need is still there and we’d encourage anyone who can help to join us in donating the food and essential items that vulnerable members of our community need, by dropping items in to the box outside the church on Blounts Court Road. 

“We’d like to thank SSEN for its support and for helping us to build a stronger community in Sonning Common.” 

Anthony Urquhart, SSEN’s Head of Region, said: 

“Springwater Church, Sonning Common Parish Council and their volunteers have shown how quickly they’ve been able to adapt to the issues that quickly arose at the start of the pandemic, and how they continue to support their community. 

“In addition to helping meet the nutritional needs of vulnerable residents in the village through the food bank, they have expanded a scheme that has built a network others can contribute to, either through their time or donations to the food bank. 

“I’m proud that, through the award they received from SSEN’s Resilient Communities Fund, I have been able to help them achieve this.” 

SSEN repurposed its Resilient Communities Fund, making £320,000 available to support local efforts to help those most vulnerable during the first phase of the coronavirus pandemic. Successful applicants from community, parish, town and borough councils were awarded up to £3,000 each for projects that supported vulnerable community members, enabled volunteers to support community coronavirus initiatives, provide PPE to vulnerable and frontline workers, run community befriending schemes and improve community communication. 

Since its launch in 2015, SSEN’s Resilient Communities Fund has provided over £2.7 million to 538 local community projects to build resilience and protect those most vulnerable. The criteria for the fund in 2020 was changed following consultation with SSEN stakeholder groups, who strongly supported opening the fund early and targeting coronavirus response.

To learn more about SSEN’s repurposed Resilient Communities Fund, please click here.