FOODBANKS UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT: Pet foodbank with family theme

FOODBANKS UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT: Pet foodbank with family theme

By Jill Theobald | 26/06/2022

FOODBANKS UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT: Pet foodbank with family theme

ROTHERHAM’s first pet foodbank is helping pet owners struggling with the cost of living crisis after quadrupling its donation points.

Critters Kitchen — which became a community interest company (CIC) in May — was set up by husband and wife team Christopher and Dawn Walker, as a community group last December.

The volunteer-run organisation has since grown from a room in their Maltby home to a storage unit on Hellaby industrial estate.

The number of collection points, to drop off unopened wet and dry unexpired pet food, has leapt from three to 12, with grooming parlours and pet shops across Rotherham getting on board, as well as several signing up from outside the borough.

“Our strapline is ‘keeping pets in families’,” said Christopher. “And that’s exactly what we do.

“One person told us recently: ‘Thank you for the pet food parcel. Now I can eat as well,’ because the money they are saving on pet food they can put towards their own meals.”

The idea came about when the couple, themselves both on benefits, were watching TV with their two dogs and cats.

“It was a programme about people helping the homeless with their pets’ vet bills by giving them money or by bringing pet food,” said Christopher.

“I thought to myself: ‘Is there provision out there for food banks for pets?’ I went online and saw a few but nothing in Rotherham.”  

After contacting pet food manufacturers, Christopher (38) — who is hoping to study a diploma in animal care at Dearne Valley College later this year — heard from Butchers Pet Care.

“They said they thought what we were doing was great and would send a pallet of dog food,” he said.

“We didn’t know how much that was — then 2,500 cans of dog food arrived at the two-bedroom house we share with my mother-in-law!

“We had nowhere to put it but our room and had to sleep on an airbed in the lounge!”

Critters then used a spare room at Maltby Foodbank run by St Mary’s Church before gaining the storage unit.

“I’ve heard people say: ‘If you can’t afford pets, it’s cruel to keep them’,” said Christopher.

“But people’s situations change. Many have lost jobs, especially after Covid.”

Christopher, who previously worked in retail, catering, and factories, said he used a foodbank while employed on reduced hours in 2016, which gave him insight into people’s struggles.

The CIC relies on donations and volunteer drivers to distribute the weekly deliveries, and is keen to hear from would-be helpers.

Contact Critters by visiting, emailing or calling 07988 357167.