Council launches festive food fund

Families struggling over Christmas and New Year can avoid bad debt and loan sharks thanks to a special one-off loan to help pay for food.

The Rotherham Festive Food Fund was launched at the Pak Supermarket by Rotherham Council and NHS Rotherham in partnership with the Laser Credit Union and Voluntary Action Rotherham on Wednesday.

The authority is loaning £80,000 to the town's Laser Credit Union, which will then give interest-free crisis loans to the public specifically for food.

Families will be able to borrow £100 and individuals £50, with the money being transferred to a special food voucher that can be redeemed at the Pak supermarket in Wellgate.

The interest-free loans can then be paid back at £5 a week from February.

The Festive Food Fund is the idea of Rotherham Council leader Roger Stone, who is concerned that members of the community are struggling to meet the cost of food over the holidays during the current economic climate.

"Having enough to eat, particularly at this time of year is one of the fundamental basics of life," said Coun Stone.

"And the thought of people having to use loan sharks, door-step lenders and pay-day loan companies just to see them through the holiday period is horrendous and is something that agencies in Rotherham should do all they can to prevent."

Coun Stone said he hoped any families or individuals struggling financially will contact the Laser Credit Union for help and advice.

He added: "Obviously they will have to meet the necessary criteria to obtain the loan but the credit union will be able to offer all kinds of support, which has got to be better than turning to loan sharks or other kinds of high-interest lenders.”

The Festive Food Fund will run to Friday 11th January and vouchers are redeemable at the Pak supermarket until the end of January.

The loans will be issued by the credit union in the form of £25 food vouchers, and cannot be used for cigarettes or alcohol.

Dr John Radford, director of public health for Rotherham welcomed the scheme.

He said: "We know that people are struggling to buy fresh and healthy food for their families so a scheme such as this is really important for the people of Rotherham, specially at this time of year when a good diet is even more important."

Anyone wanting details of the scheme should contact the Laser Credit Union, based at The Old Town Hall in Rotherham.