On June 27th 2012, we will be officially opening a new branch of The Matthew Tree Project, called 'The Carpenter's Foodstore'. This will be located in the Withywood Centre and will service the areas of Hartcliffe and Withywood in South Bristol.
A recent case study reveals how a young single mother with two young children was referred to us in mid November 2011 by the children's school. The mother had recently lost her job. Her benefits were taking time to kick in due to the investigation as to how and why she had lost her job. Debts through crisis loans were mounting up in an attempt to feed her children and herself. When she came to us she was in despair and depression. We started to provided a weekly supply of healthy food, which she was able to choose for herself, and we also provided support care by one of our well trained Outreach Support Care volunteers. Over time she started to regain her confidence and began looking for work. Just before Christmas her benefits began but we continued to provide food so she had funds to begin to repay her debts. We also continued with the outreach care and encouragement as she searched for a job. In mid January 2012 she secured herself a job with her first pay cheque on 3rd February 2012. This is when we stopped providing food and support and the great thing is that she is now a volunteer helping others who find themselves in need as she was.
What we do
Not only what we do but how we do it is vitally important. Two of the main elements to what we offer are:
The provision of free food aid to children, families, and individuals in emergency need
The provision of ongoing care and support
It is our aim to see families and individuals transformed out of a life of poverty and struggle and into a much better place. We seek to help anyone, of any age, in any situation but we do have an emphasis in particular to focus on children and to break the cycle of poor children becoming poor adults.
being received with dignity and respect is crucially important to anyone, in any situation, and The Matthew Tree Project is no exception. We want everyone who comes to us to know we really appreciate them and we are honoured to be able to help.
We operate a free choice distribution model. This means each client can choose their own food from what we have on the selves within the constraints of the healthy eating 'food plate' from the food standards agency. This recommends what constitutes a healthy diet in weight, i.e. so much protein, so much carbohydrate, so much vegetable and so much fruit. In addition to this we also provide milk, cooking oil, bottled water, tea, fruit juice, cooking sauces, jam, and biscuits.
We have found that when money is tight, things that most of us take for granted like toiletries become an unaffordable luxury. We do not feel this is right and therefore offer soap, shampoo, tooth brushes and tooth paste, toilet paper, bath and shower gel, deodorant, female hygiene products, tissues, moisturising creams, kitchen towels, washing detergent, and washing up liquid.
Ongoing Care & Support
We have a growing team of well trained volunteers through which we offer ongoing and long term care and support for those who would like it. We seek to help identify what the barriers are that are holding someone in a life of poverty and then come along side them to provide support and encouragement to work their way into a better situation. We also offer expert knowledge via our partnerships with other agencies and are developing these links all the time so what we are able to offer is as extensive and as effective as it can possibly be.
Our objective is to help children, families, and individuals who are in great financial difficulty. We work in a number of different ways, depending on the needs of the group identified, and who would benefit from help.
We provide food aid support for the children on free school meals whilst the school is closed. This is an ongoing and long term commitment we have made as we want to ensure no child goes hungry. In addition to this, if in the professional opinion of the school, a child or their family is in danger of going hungry during term time they can be referred to us for help.
Food aid for families and individuals who in the opinion of the professional referral agency are in danger of going hungry can be referred to us for help using our referral vouchers. Any agency of organisation who are in contact with or engaged with vulnerable people can apply to become a referral agency to The Matthew Tree Project.
How much food is provided?
The amount of food aid provided will be based on individual circumstances. We will not allow a client or family to become 'long term dependant' on us but we will provide long term food aid support (maximum of 5 days at a time) as part of an overall process of working with the client and other agencies to try and improve the clients situation.
Accountability and Controls
The Matthew Tree Project is a charity and as such is accountable to the Charity Commission to ensure the aid we provide gets to the people who are in most need of it. Developing very strong and close working relationships with the referral agencies is an absolutely essential part of this. The Matthew Tree Project is a professional organisation, undertaking annual auditing and has been awarded a 5-star rating (highest possible) by the Environmental and Food Hygiene Agency. We have a strong and diverse board of Trustees and are members of The Centre for Social Justice Poverty Fighting Alliance who are based in London.
Many people living in, or on the edge of poverty, do not know how to cook a healthy, balanced diet and therefore as well as providing the food we are working towards providing a 'healthy eating' recipe book that matches the food in the FOODStORE.
Food Safety Advice
We also working towards providing instruction and information on cleanliness, general cooking skills, chilling procedures, and advice to avoid cross-contamination.
We are working towards hosting regular community based 'Cooking Clubs' that will be fun, informative and all-inclusive. Anyone and everyone from the local community will be encouraged to come along and enjoy the club regardless of age, gender, ethnic background, or ability. We will provide the ingredients and the instruction and those who come along and take part will get to take the food they cook home with them at the end of the evening.