The Big Food Appeal

Press and Journal / Evening Express

The Big Food Appeal started life as our latest annual festive campaign – but it quickly became clear it was destined to be much bigger.

With so many families facing going hungry over Christmas, we had teamed up with one of the region’s biggest foodbank charities to provide ways for readers to make a difference. We were delighted with the response. P&J, Evening Express and Original 106 readers and listeners quickly donated more than £8,500 and used our Amazon wish list to send crucial items directly to the charity. Altogether it meant an extra 3,572kg of supplies - the equivalent of 8,505 meals. This success was largely down to extraordinary work by the Live News team and specialists to present the issue in a highly-engaging way. We harnessed the stark facts of course. The launch article used FOI-sourced figures - 3.1 million meals distributed in just 18 months - to hammer home the extent of the problem in an area which many think of as affluent due to the oil industry. There were striking exclusive takes too. Like the powerful revelation by a teacher – in one of the better off areas – that she keeps a stash of snacks in her desk for pupils going hungry. But we knew we needed to do more both to capture the imagination of potential donors and to offer practical help to those in need. So we challenged a top celebrity – the north-east's award-winning “Kilted Chef”, Craig Wilson - to come up with three meals made from a food parcel and filmed him cooking up a cut-price storm. We championed local heroes like Garry Royan, who batch-cooked weeks’ worth of meals for his foodbank before going into hospital for surgery. Staff went out to help pack food and get it to community centres to show we were not just talking about the issue but getting directly involved. And we didn’t just shine the spotlight on the large and growing number of groups and charities stepping in to help, we plotted them on an interactive map made available through the campaign homepage for anyone looking for help. It was a great success - but the more we explored, the more it became clear it could not be a temporary thing. As the crisis pushed more families into poverty, so we have kept our attention on it all year – covering developments such as the surge in people turning to foodbanks to feed their pets or the increasing strain on students. Now we are stepping up a gear again, planning our own food drives, tie-ups with local firms and cultural organisations and a whole catalogue of new material on emerging issues such as “heat banks” for this Christmas. This is a campaign which addresses the biggest single issue facing our readers and if it means that we can help offer even a glimmer of hope at such a difficult time then we will be fulfilling our role as a regional paper.