Blackpool Food Bank delivers relief with Mercedes-Benz Vito

Hard-pressed charity workers have drafted in a Mercedes-Benz van to help them meet the soaring demand from struggling families desperate for their help. 

The Vito was supplied by Dealer Ciceley Commercials for an attractively low price that incorporated a contribution from the manufacturer, reflecting the vital work undertaken by Blackpool Food Bank.    

Before the pandemic struck the charity was distributing approximately 280 emergency food packs each month. By August that number had risen to more than 850, and in November the total exceeded 1,000 for the first time. 

Blackpool Food Bank was already running two smaller vans of another brand, but as chairman Neil Reid explained: “We needed a larger vehicle with more carrying capacity. It also had to be comfortable and car-like for our volunteers, though, as they’re not professional drivers.

“Reliability was crucial too, of course, as were low running costs. I sought advice and recommendations from technicians at the independent garage that looks after our other vans, asking them what they’d buy if they were spending their own money – they all said a Mercedes-Benz.” 

Ciceley Commercials, which represents Mercedes-Benz Vans in Lancashire, as well as Cumbria, south west Scotland and parts of Greater Manchester, worked with Mercedes-Benz Vans UK Used Sales Manager John Ridge to come up with an Approved Used Vito 111 CDI that was registered in 2019 and had covered fewer than 5,000 miles.

A long L2 PURE model, the van is powered by a 1.6-litre engine that offers outstanding fuel economy of 45.6 mpg (combined cycle). Other Vito variants are available with rear-wheel drive, but the 111 CDI’s 114 hp output is transmitted via the front wheels. 

Blackpool Food Bank was established in 2012. Initially a single outlet, it has grown since then to become, according to Neil Reid, “more of a food distributor, the ‘wholesaler’ in the supply chain”. The charity now supplies a network of 70 other organisations that work directly with people in need, including NHS crisis teams, Citizens’ Advice Bureaux, local authorities and other groups over an area that stretches from Fleetwood to St Annes.

An Approved Used Mercedes-Benz is the best thing to a new van bearing the three-pointed star. All come with the same exacting commitment to quality and workmanship, and all undergo comprehensive pre-delivery inspections.  

Blackpool Food Bank’s Vito is still covered by its original three-year, unlimited mileage warranty, while the charity also benefits from the manufacturer’s MobiloVan cover, which includes free, 24-hour roadside assistance in the unlikely event of a breakdown.

“The van was in ‘mint’ condition when it arrived, as though it had never been used,” said Mr Reid. “It represents fantastic value for money – the price we paid incorporated a substantial discount, so, of course, we’re very grateful to Ciceley Commercials and Mercedes-Benz for their support. 

“Given the pressure we were under on the run-up to Christmas we sent the Vito out to work immediately. It’s been very well received by our drivers and is proving invaluable in helping us to undertake our vital work.”

The Food Bank’s volunteers are using their Mercedes-Benz van to make collections from a variety of sources, including local business and supermarkets that provide food from their own stock as well as hosting drop boxes where shoppers can leave items they have purchased. The van also delivers food to the charity’s own hubs, and to the distribution centres of partner organisations; this year, for example, the Food Bank has opened a Covid-secure drop-off point for members of the public at Blackpool Tower. In total, it handles well over 10 tonnes of food per week.

As well as making up emergency parcels for urgent cases, the Food Bank provides a range of foods, including tinned and dried goods but also frozen items, fresh fruit and vegetables, and bread.

“Sadly, demand for our service shows no sign of slowing down,” said Neil Reid. “We’re eternally grateful for the support we receive from the many local businesses and members of the public who help us out.”

Blackpool was already close to the heart of the Mercedes-Benz Vans ‘family’. In the three years 2017-19 teams of cyclists representing the manufacturer, its Dealer network, suppliers, customers and supporters have raised more than £65,000 for deserving causes by pedalling the 62 miles from Manchester to the seaside town’s South Promenade. The annual event, which is organised by The Christie cancer charity, could not take place this year due to the pandemic.

Those wishing to find out more about the Blackpool Food Bank’s work, or about how to make a donation or get involved, can make contact via its Facebook page – facebook.com/blackpoolfoodbank – or visit theblackpooltower.com/blackpool-food-bank/

Charity champions: Blackpool Food Bank Operations Manager Helen Smith and Transport Manager Darren Dawson with their Mercedes-Benz Vito