Foodbanks during Covid-19: Reflections from the Front…part 1
DAPHINE AIKENS, FOUNDER OF HAMMERSMITH & FULHAM FOODBANK REFLECTS ON THE LAST EXTRAORDINARY few WEEKS
Like many Foodbanks across the country, whether part of the Trussell Trust Foodbank Network, or another, we have had to rapidly adjust the way we work due to Coronavirus.
And we’ve ‘done it’.
We’ve moved to a delivery only model, so anyone referred to our foodbank has a food parcel delivered to their door within 24 hours, if not same day!
Each parcel contains enough food to prepare up to 10 nutritionally balanced meals at home.
Every parcel also goes out with a bag of fresh fruit and veg, and some toiletries too.
Extras can include baby food, nappies, feminine hygiene, pet food and other items when available.
Volunteers pack around 100 food boxes every hour – so we really are ‘on a roll’ – and all whilst practicing rules around social distancing.
We’ve gone from ‘feeding’ about 12,000 men, women and children during the financial year just ended, to ‘feeding’ almost 5,000 people since 1st April 2020.
Of course, no-one should ever have to need a foodbank – the benefits system should be able to keep people from poverty and in need, so in that respect, there is always a kind of tension between celebrating our ‘successes’ and remembering that we are talking about real people, trapped in poverty.
“For me, like so many of us who run or volunteer in Foodbanks, it’s the people that are most important, not the numbers.”
With that in mind, the saddest thing about running a Foodbank during the pandemic, is the loss of one-to-one contact with our ‘clients’ - people who need someone to talk to, whether to just feel ‘normal’ by having a simple chat over a cup of tea with one of our volunteers during a challenging time, to those who are in desperate situations requiring support, guidance and immediate professional advice.
I’m really concerned about the people who aren’t getting the more holistic support that we normally provide in our cafe-style Foodbank Centres.
For me, like so many of us who run or volunteer in Foodbanks, it’s the people that are most important, not the numbers.
I really miss the opportunities we used to have to connect with the people visiting our foodbank – every one of them an interesting, unique, valuable and valid individual.
I can’t wait to a return to ‘normal’.