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Coventry homeless hit as Marks and Spencer axes food donation

Website: Coventry Telegraph
Date: 4/06/2010
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A HOMELESS charity says it has been stopped from collecting unsold food from the city's Marks & Spencer store - which it was using to feed more than 100 people every day.

Crunch talks are due to be held next week between volunteers at the Jesus Centre, in Lamb Street, and bosses at the city centre shop.

Members of the centre have been collecting food which is past its “best before” date from the store for the past three years.

But they claim when they went to pick up the donations last week they were turned away twice.

They now fear they could lose out on thousands of pounds worth of goods which cater for more than 100 homeless people each day.

The centre's team leader and fundraiser, Laurence Cooper, said: “We had been picking up the stuff from the store as usual but were told we could no longer collect the food. My heart just sank.

“If we keep losing food week after week a lot of homeless people will go without food. We have to abide by certain rules by the store on how we use the food.

“We've passed all the hygiene inspections but when we tried to collect food for the second time we were told we had failed, which isn't true.”

The store had been donating at least £2,000 worth of meat, sandwiches, cakes and vegetables each week to the centre, which has 65 volunteers working throughout the week including weekends to provide meals in the afternoon and evening.

Mr Cooper added: “We offer people meals every single day and heavily rely on donations. If we don't get the food (from M&S) there is no way we will be able to feed 100 homeless people. It will be cut down severely.

“I can understand if the store has changed its decision for the better but what could be better than feeding human beings who have no place to stay and rely on us to get food?

“We have been so grateful for their donations to us - we had even sent a letter to express our thanks and we invited the chief executive to come to the centre and see how it has helped people.

“This has been an excellent system and we always made sure we used the food properly. I would like the managers to see what benefit it has for people in the city.”

Neil Wilson, who is homeless, relies on the food at the centre everyday. He said: “The food is very nice and makes me feel good. Without it some people wouldn't turn up, it wouldn't be the same. I don't eat much as it is. It really helps me.”

A spokeswoman for Marks & Spencer said: “We will arrange a meeting with volunteers at the Jesus Centre next week to try to resolve the issue.”