A Devon charity that provides critically important food and essential supplies to Exeter’s hungry has visited Stephens Scown LLP’s Exeter office, to cement a charity partnership.

Employees at Stephens Scown voted for Exeter Foodbank to become one of the firm’s charities, and Mark Richardson from the charity outlined how it supports the city on his recent visit.

Mark Richardson explained: “Exeter Foodbank is part of the Trussell Trust and was formed in 2008 in response to the late 2000’s financial crisis. We have the core goal of providing emergency food to users (clients) who have little or no money to buy food.

“The demand for our services is increasing. Previously, the majority of clients came into foodbanks because of changes or delays with benefits, but today’s clients are coming in for a variety of reasons, with low incomes being a common factor. We saw an increase in use of around 25% in 2019, and over the past five years, the number of three days’ worth of emergency food that we provide has increased by about 73%.”

Exeter Foodbank gave out nearly 7,000 food parcels from its Beacon Centre and Mint Methodist Church centres in 2019, and has prepared for 2020 by setting aside 500% more funding to cope with expected demand. Donations can come in from businesses, individuals and supermarkets, to name a few sources, and there is very little that the charity can’t use.

Along with providing essential food supplies, the Foodbank also provides a ‘Signposter’ system where volunteers direct clients to agencies to receive assistance with problems that they may be facing, such as debt or housing issues.

Rebecca Abbott and Amy Ralston, co-chairs of Stephens Scown’s Devon Charity Committee, arranged for Mark to visit the Exeter office to give a talk to staff. Rebecca said:

“It was eye opening to learn about the range of users of the foodbank, and interesting to understand more about how Exeter Foodbank is run and how we, as individuals and as a company, can support them.”

Discussing changing conditions for foodbanks and the support they receive, Mark says:

“When I started at Exeter Foodbank in 2016, there was an average of 98 clients coming in each week. During some weeks in 2019, this spiked up to around 160 clients a week, and rose to a maximum of 204 clients during 2019’s school holiday weeks.

“There aren’t overnight solutions to the UK’s low income issues or the problems that foodbank clients face, but by providing a generous, understanding and respectful service to the people of Exeter, we can give them the best support possible.

“I’m glad to have Stephens Scown’s help in 2020; the firm has already stepped up during the Christmas period by donating food and essentials and through its volunteering efforts.”

Exeter Foodbank has set its sights on a number of initiatives in 2020, including developing their relationship with the Mint Methodist Church to ensure that the facilities are the very best and most accessible possible for clients in need. As one of Stephens Scown’s charities of the year, the firm will continue to support Exeter Foodbank through volunteering, donations and fundraising.

Giving Back policies at Stephens Scown mean that colleagues can take three days annual leave to volunteer for charities or causes close to their hearts, over and above their annual leave. The firm’s solicitors are also able to undertake pro-bono work for worthy causes and provide valuable advice and legal services to charitable organisations which otherwise may not be able to afford it.