How food collections help Mustard Tree combat food insecurity across Greater Manchester.

Jen shares how her experience with Mustard Tree’s Food Club inspired her to use her platform to raise food, clothing and awareness.

Jen collected food and clothing for Mustard Tree in 2021.

At the end of 2021, Jen decided to get involved with Mustard Tree’s Fill-A-Crate for Christmas Campaign, asking her followers on Instagram to help her with the collection. “Last year, I wasn’t in the position to do this collection, but with the support I’ve had and being able to focus on my work, I thought, why don’t I use my platform to do something good?” says JenWith the generosity of her clients and followers, as well as, help from local business’, it only took four days to fill a container with food and clothing. “Lots of my clients didn’t know about Mustard Tree, and now they do — it’s about raising awareness”. Donations help Mustard Tree to provide essential services all year-round and enable families facing financial insecurity to access good quality food and clothing.

“Lots of my clients didn’t know about Mustard Tree, and now they do — it’s about raising awareness”

Jen became aware of Mustard Tree as a child, as she grew up locally in Collyhurst and would often get involved helping the charity through her primary school.

As an adult, Jen found herself and her younger sister needing to use Mustard Tree’s Food Club and access help from charities Centrepoint and Riverside. Jen was sofa-surfing, staying with friends in Liverpool; “If it wasn’t for people like Kath at Riverside, I would have had nowhere to go”. Jen explains how she felt there was so much stigma around homelessness, even though it can so easily happen to anyone. Jen was working to build her own make-up artist business at the time, using Instagram to promote her work. She continued to post on social media, whilst sofa surfing — “No one would have known I was homeless at the time from looking at my Instagram”.

Mustard Tree’s Food Club aims to eliminate the stigma which can come with accessing emergency food. The Food Club model makes accessing low-cost food as normal as possible, operating similar way to a regular food shop. Food Club offers a dignified experience for clients, in which choice is central.

Mustard Tree’s Food Manager, Chris, at the Ancoats Food Club.

Jen’s sister was referred to Mustard Tree as it was their local Food Club and praised the way Mustard Tree dealt with her and her sister’s situation. Jen says Mustard Tree made it quick and efficient to access food in a discrete way. “The whole process was easy and efficient. Mustard Tree didn’t make it obvious we were accessing food”.

“The whole process was easy and efficient. Mustard Tree didn’t make it obvious we were accessing food”.

With the help of Centrepoint’s deposit scheme, Jen secured a new flat and has been able to grow her make-up business over the past year. Now a qualified make-up artist and owner of a beauty salon, Jen’s teaching and using her platform to advocate for the charity. “Now I’m accredited, I’m able to put on makeup masterclasses and teach others”.

Jen’s collection had a massive impact, helping the charity to stock the Ancoats’ Food Club and Community Shop, over the Winter period. As relative poverty and food insecurity is on the rise across Greater Manchester, food collections like Jen’s, help Mustard Tree to meet the rising demand for the Food Club. “Food collections over the festive period, really help Mustard Tree with our food costs and gives people who are struggling the dignity of choice” says Mustard Tree Food Manager Chris, “The extra Christmas items, make accessing our food club a little more special. We want everyone to have the option to celebrate, regardless of their situation”.

“Food collections over the Winter period really help Mustard Tree with our food costs and gives people who are struggling the dignity of choice”

Food collections are a vital form of support which help Mustard Tree year-round, not just during Christmas. Unfortunately, the need for food banks and clubs is growing across Greater Manchester and relative poverty will be at its highest in 2021–22 since 1987. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of food distribution centres in Greater Manchester increased from 56 to 64 and food parcels distributed increased by 29%. As the cost-of-living crisis is expected to continue to squeeze families and individuals living in Manchester and Salford, there has never been a more impactful time to donate food to the charity.

Between April 2020 — March 2021 6,914 people have accessed our Food Clubs over 30,000 times, with Mustard Tree providing 6,198 food parcels during the height of lockdown. Over the last three months, we have provided 3,162 people with low-cost and free food. Food collections by individuals and groups will play a huge role in 2022, helping Mustard Tree to continue meeting the demand for low cost and free food across Greater Manchester.

Thank you to Jen and everyone who has supported Mustard Tree over the Winter period!

Find out more about organising your own food collection here: https://mustardtree.org.uk/support-us/donate-food/

Follow Jen on Instagram: @makeupbyjen_x