The story of the Big Help Project

The story of the Big Help Project starts with the founding of Knowsley Foodbank in September 2011, by Dr Barry Cooper. It operated one day a week with one member of staff and a handful of volunteers. In our first full year, we feed over 3,000 people-one year later this had risen to over 8,000 people. Today the foodbank operates from ten distribution centres across the borough of Knowsley, with the support of over 100 volunteers and five full and part-time staff. In 2016-2017, we processed over 4,000 vouchers to feed 8,000 people-over 50% of these were children. 

From the launch of the Foodbank it was always the intention to do more, by addressing the issues that people are facing in our community and which are driving them to the point where they cannot afford food. This holistic approach led to the opening of Jubilee Debt Advice, with funding from the Steve Morgan Foundation, in November 2011-demand for this service is growing all the time, and since opening it has handled £3million worth of debt for over 300 clients. In 2012, we received Lottery funding to deliver Jubilee Debt Advice as part of GetConnected,  a wider strategy that supports clients  through a truly 'joined-up' approach, bringing Knowsley foodbank and Jubilee Debt Advice together with two new elements-Next Steps employability, and digital inclusion, delivered through the Learn My Way platform. Since 2016, Next Steps has extended to include Working Futures, a bespoke program, funded by the ESF and Vola Consortium, for young people aged 16-29 (NEETs).

The foodbank provision continued to grow alongside all these other changes: in April 2013, we became the delivery partner for Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Councils Emergency Support Scheme, leading to increased sustainability for Knowsley Foodbank through new premises, the free loan of a van and funding for two additional staff. Most recently, in 2014 we launched Baby Basics Knowsley, as part of a national scheme gifting new-born essentials to vulnerable mums-to-be. The Big Help Project of today has grown beyond anything that we could have anticipated at the start. We have been blessed with incredible volunteers, dedicated staff, and support from funders, advisors and the local community. However, throughout all the change and growth of the Big Help Project and Knowsley Foodbank, our core purpose has remained the same: to feed the hungry, without judgement or reservation, for as long as there is a need.