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Student Joe Gartland calls for some generosity this Christmas

In 2019 the Government reported fourteen and a half million people were living in poverty. And, under the economic uncertainty our country is facing as a result of coronavirus and Brexit, millions more people are set to be forced into unethical standards of living.

This is a sad reality for a country that prides itself on equality of opportunity and individual freedom.

These undeniable issues mean millions of people are not able to access their basic necessities of life; unable to properly feed themselves or their family; unable to stay warm or dry over a freezing winter; barely able to get by. Often forgotten by society.

Foodbank donations can really help (43499985)
Foodbank donations can really help (43499985)

There is, however, hope, as more and more people are becoming aware of these issues.

At Abbeygate Sixth Form College, we made our first step of progress into combating this issue on a local level. We did this by organising a food collection for a local food bank – Gatehouse.

Gatehouse is just one of many charities set up to support vulnerable people in our community. This charity work alongside other organisations, churches and individuals as well as receiving support from the county and district councils to provide three days of emergency food to people in need. But they need support from the local community too.

Here at Abbeygate, we have collected a large number of various different necessities, from tinned food to cleaning products. Students and staff have donated items over the last two weeks and have managed to collect four large crates of supplies.

While we are proud of the first steps that we have made in supplying food, and educating Abbeygate students on the social issues at hand, this is a minor movement within a much bigger picture.

The issue of poverty and drastic inequality is not one that simply occurs annually; in April it was recorded that one and a half million people were going whole days without any food. While supporting those in need around the festive period is a positive start, it is evident more needs to be done. This is why, at Abbeygate, we hope to introduce more fundraising activities throughout the year in order to help our local community.

So, the generosity that surrounds the festive period should be encouraged, and those that get involved should be commended. But let us not forget that the issue of hunger and lack of access so many have to the basic necessities of life will continue long after the 25th of December.

Make sure you are fully informed about the issues our country is facing and do what you can to support a local charity now and in the future. If you want to help, consider donating food, money or your time to Gatehouse, Storehouse or the Best Before Project.

Gatehouse: All food must be non-perishable (tinned or packets), with at least three months’ date left on and unopened.

Storehouse (West Suffolk Vineyard Church): Items needed include UHT milk, Pot Noodles, curry and pasta sauces, tinned meals, tinned vegetables, tinned desserts, shampoo, shower gel, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

The Best Before Project: “Our objective is to collect foods, directly from supermarkets then take them to our shop and redistribute the produce on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis to individuals and families from the local area, especially those on low or zero incomes. By doing this, not only will we be preventing the food from being wasted, but we will also be helping the community and help educate people about the meaning of the ‘best before’ label.”

Bury Drop In: “Bury Drop In aims to provide a safe place for the homeless and those with housing needs in Bury St Edmunds. We provide warm food, friendship, and introductions to various local agencies and support groups ranging from health to housing.”

-- Joe Gartland in Year 13 at Abbeygate Sixth Form College and studies A-levels in Government and Politics, English Literature and Economics

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