For the last four years I have volunteered at a foodbank which is run from a local church. It started a good few years before I joined, when somebody knocked on the vicar's door and begged for food, as they had not eaten in three days. The vicar raided his larder and produced some food. A few days later, the same person returned with a few others and the queue grew. Over time, the vicar set up a trust and the foodbank was born.
It's main aim is to feed the local homeless, jobless, people of no fixed abode and sofa-surfers, but nobody is turned away. Many feel quite embarrassed to be there in the first place, but you can tell they have no choice. Some are pensioners struggling to survive on a state pension, others have mental health issues, quite a few have lost jobs during the covid pandemic. The foodbank is open for a few hours every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.
The vicar, however, recognised that food alone was not the only answer to their problems so has, in addition to the three-weekly food collection days, set up:
- advocacy to advise and help filling in benefit or housing applications
- literacy to help with reading, writing and maths
- clothing to replace torn clothes
- sewing to repair clothes with more life to give
- a cooked two-course meal on the Friday sessions
- a cafe to have a snack and meet friends on the Tuesday and Saturday sessions
- a shower and washing machine for those with no fixed abode
I help out handing out food and I am the sole person to do the sewing repairs. I am gradually getting to know many of them and just chatting can help them open up and feel normal, when their life is often chaos and lonely. On the cooked meal day we can serve about 100 people, on the other days at least 40 or 50.
We rely on donations from the general public (both food and money) as well as generous donations from local supermarkets and shops when their goods are getting close to use-by dates. We do not accept fresh meat or fish, but prefer shelf goods such as tins or jars. One local baker provides end-of-day unsold bread and we do accept eggs. We offer toiletries too and even dog or cat food, as many have pets.
Sadly, over the last few months donations have not been so forthcoming, as our usual donors have been hit by rising costs and inflation, so stocks in our container have started to dwindle. With this in mind, the church held a plant and cake sale yesterday to raise funds for the foodbank. I made 10 slabs of cake (shown in the photo below) and each slab was sold for £4. I helped run the cafe and the local community poured in to buy cakes and hot drinks either to eat on the premises or take away. We didn't stop for two hours serving an endless stream of people. Outside the plants were flying off the stalls too. By the end of the afternoon, we totted up the total and were thoroughly amazed that we had collected over £1,100. In just two hours! That will buy an awful lot of tins and toiletries to see us over the coming months until the Harvest Festivals in the autumn can swell our stores again.
Why am I crying? For the goodness of people like your good self and the amazing vicar who heard the call and answered - and also for the cruelty of a rich land that could easily feed everyone if arrangements were better. Nobody in this kingdom should have to go without food in their bellies and a safe, warm place to sleep. Kudos to you for doing your bit ADDY!
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