A FOOD bank run by a church in Swansea which helps nearly 200 people has been broken into and all the food stolen.
Baby toys, an orange bike for teenagers and soft drinks for a tuck shop were also taken. All the items were being stored in the hall next to St Thomas Church, St Thomas, Swansea.
Vicar Steve Bunting said the culprit or culprits gained entry overnight to the hall on Saturday, June 3, via a fire exit. He estimated they were in the building for around 30 minutes, given the quantity of stock taken. Doors to side rooms had been opened.
Some of the food was packed in bags ready to be handed to families on Monday morning. A larger quantity wasn’t bagged.
The Reverend Bunting said: “I think the likelihood is that it was someone who has previously used us, which makes it all the sadder. If someone had come in and said, ‘I’m absolutely desperate, I need £20,’ it would have been easier for us to give it to them.”
The resale value of the stolen stock, he said, was negligible. “Someone has got to be desperate to think a food bank is the best thing to steal from,” he said. “It deprived people a week’s worth of food. We had to turn people away, which is not a very nice feeling.”
Reverend Bunting had been hesitant to report the burglary to South Wales Police because he said he wanted to help the person or people responsible rather than them facing prosecution. He said they were clearly “not in a good place” and that being arrested would be “another step in the wrong direction”.
He added: “I would rather them come to us and say, ‘This was me, and this is why.’ We might be able to help. We are so much more than food here.”
But he has now reported the incident to police and said he would liaise with the close-knit area’s police community support officers and constables.
The food bank has been running for around seven years – from the church itself rather than the hall – and now supports 170 to 200 individuals. Reverend Bunting said the number had risen after Christmas, and that sometimes people waited for two hours before it opened. He said usage dipped when government cost-of-living payments were made.
The church also has a not-for-profit cafe, a community training kitchen, and offers advice for issues such as welfare payments and homelessness.
Reverend Bunting said he had been heartened by the response to the burglary. Food donations have been pouring in, the nearby Swansea Dockers Sports and Social Club has contributed £250, while an envelope with money in it was posted through his door with a note saying it was for food.
“For every bad act there are 10, 20 good ones, often anonymous,” he said. “It is incredibly heart-warming. We’ve got to make sure we focus on that.”
Last September the Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Kate, visited St Thomas Church and spoke to volunteers and members of the congregation.
Princess Kate described the food bank as a “lifeline” for many people. “There is amazing work going on here. Keep up the hard work,” she said. Pat Hughes, one of the women who runs the food bank, said: “It was lovely to chat with the Princess and it’s something we won’t forget.”