At Coleman Street Community Centre on a Wednesday there is a busy food bank where volunteers help local families who are struggling to make ends meet.

The Family Storehouse food bank and drop-in centre, in the Victoria ward, has been run by Southend Vineyard church for seven years, prompted by an increase in the number of families asking for help. The team of 12 volunteers now sees about 60 families a week. The centre provides a safe space where parents can pick up a food bag, formula milk, nappies, or anything else they need. They can also have a cup of tea and a chat while their children eat breakfast, play or do craft activities.

Now, thanks to a partnership with the communication and language team at A Better Start Southend, as well as baby food, families can also pick up some friendly advice and talk about any issues, or any help they need to give their children the best start in life.

Sophie Harvey, an A Better Start Southend speech and language therapist, has been visiting Family Storehouse for six weeks, getting to know the families who rely on the service, and the staff who help them. Sophie talks to parents about their child’s development, and how they can improve their communication and vocabulary. She has given parents storytelling ideas and signposted services parents can go to for expert advice, like the NHS Speech & Language service, Early Years services and the SHIP website (Southend’s Children and Families Information Point).

Isobel Wratislaw, Communication and Language Lead at A Better Start Southend says:

“The Storehouse is a lifeline to local families and I’ve been aware of their work for some time. It made a lot of sense to team up. It means that while families are accessing one kind of help at the food bank, we can support them with their children’s development too and make sure there aren’t any problems. The parents have responded really well and we’ve made great progress on developing good parent-child interactions. We’ve also visited a family at home to give them one-to-one support.”

There is further joint working in the pipeline, and plans to extend the support to cover diet and nutrition and literacy, amongst other things.

Samantha Vincett, Senior Pastor at Southend Vineyard church, who runs Family Storehouse, says:

“I’m incredibly excited about the potential of working in partnership. We’ve been supporting the local community for over 20 years, but we’re always looking for new ways to help families who visit us, whether it’s providing health advice or giving parents some respite while their children play. A Better Start Southend brings skills and expertise and it’s amazing what can be achieved by starting a conversation with parents.”

Find out more information about Family Storehouse


Article published July 2017

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