A joint venture by two veteran’s support services has seen the creation of a foodbank which is helping to care for those who have served their country over the past 80 years.

Armed forces charity SSAFA, the nations oldest of its kind, have along with the Tri-services Support Centre, in Newcastle-under-Lyme, set up the Veterans Food Bank.

Originally starting on a small-scale storing food in a small cupboard at the start of the first lockdown, the Food Bank linked up with the Trussell Trust to collect food for veterans.

Eventually through donations they were able to purchase the food themselves as Tri-Services Treasurer John Painter said: “Veterans are proud and won’t ask for help, so at first we worked with the Trussell Trust to collect the food for them. We then began to get our own food supplies and it just began to grow and grow eventually taking up the biggest room we have in the centre.”

Fellow veteran and colleague of John’s at the Tri-services Centre Geoff Harriman said: “So far we’ve given out between 60-70,000 meals and food packages to veterans across Staffordshire and South Cheshire.”

The COVID 19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns have impacted greatly upon the regions armed forces veterans with job losses, reduced hours, and delays in financial support such as Universal Credit creating a shortage in money and therefore food for these former soldiers. The combined effort of the two services however are providing more than access to food. It is the aim of both these organisations to offer help to veterans who have left the services helping them adjust to civilian life but also offering a place to create their own community by conversing with likeminded people, fellow veterans, whose experiences are similar.

For Veterans taking up their support they can get help with employment, debt management, DWP, rent issues and mental health and wellbeing, while also having a place to drop into for a chat and a cuppa at the Tri-Services centre.

Members-of-Tri-Service-Centre-and-SSAFAHelping to set-up the initiative and support her fellow veterans is Kathy Munslow, (pictured right) SSAFA Divisional Secretary for Stafford, NewcastleUnderLyme and Staffordshire, she said: “I know there are at present veterans out there who are struggling, more than ever, due to the lockdown with job losses, reduced hours at work and their mental health. Along with the veterans themselves we also support their families, helping wives who have had to carry everything on their shoulders in the absence of their partner.”

The team at the Tri-service centre, which was founded five years ago, also help single parent families, who might have separated due to pressures of serving in the armed forces, with accommodation, furniture along with health matters and medical treatment too.

Integral to that support and creation of the Veteran’s Foodbank is Treasurer and forces veteran himself John Painter who knows just how important the service and support it offer is to those who rely upon it.

“Veterans are a very insular bunch, they won’t talk to people out in the civilian world, but they will open up to other fellow veterans. A lot of things get bottled up from their time serving and then coming out into civilian life and it doesn’t make for a good recipe. We’re there to support them in any way we can. The Tri-service centre is one place they can hang onto and know there are people there to help.”

During the most recent lockdown the service, as well as handing out food, has looked to keep face to face interaction going with the help of modern technology, with the introduction of Facebook portals helping veterans to interact with their friends and community at the Tri-service centre.Foodbank-SSAFA-Tri-service-NUL

The Foodbank and continued support which the combined efforts of SSAFA and Tri-Service provide has, according to SSAFA’s Kathy Munslow been essential to the daily well-being of those veterans who have taken that set and sought their help.

“No one who hasn’t served will truly understand the difficulties faced by ex-servicemen and the importance of the work being done by SSAFA and the team at Tri-Services. There are a lot of veterans who are vulnerable, and I just want any veterans out there who need support to pick up the phone and contact the Tri-Service Support Centre or myself. We are here to support you”.

Tri-Service Centre is open: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday 10am-4pm. For more information about the work being done by SSAFA and Tri-Services or to seek support visit www.veteransupportcentre.org or contact SSAFA on 01785 212 680, Kathy Munslow 07935152590 or Tri-Services: info@veteransupportcentre.org Tel: 01782 713963

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