Beryl Bellew is a founding volunteer at the North Liverpool Foodbank. Beryl explains the stigma and then relief people feel when visiting a food bank of the first time and also the role that the Pantry plays…
“I told you they’d help you out and they don’t make you feel at all embarrassed,” so said a guy to his friend as she was leaving our Foodbank.
She’ s a young mother and had obviously come to us for the first time and we gave her food and also some toys for her little girl. Afterwards, she was overheard talking to her friend and told him how thrilled her daughter would be with all the toys.
One of our volunteers told me about this encounter who added: “They felt good and I felt even better! It’s what I’ve always said about why I like volunteering.”
A couple of weeks ago, a text was sent to me by a young woman we’ve known for a while: “Hi Beryl hope all is well, I wondered if the church can provide sanitary products as I don’t get paid ‘til Friday? I feel rather embarrassed asking.”
Of course, we were able to help. With support, she’s managing better now and didn’t need food on this occasion.
These are just a couple of examples of how people struggle with the embarrassment of needing to come to Foodbank.
The number of people using our Foodbank continues to rise and Trussell Trust provides updates on what is happening nationally. St Andrew’s Community Network has just released its annual report, but this year it’s in the form of a video. This shows the amazing work done across Liverpool by staff, volunteers and partner agencies throughout the last 12 months.
St Andrew’s has just passed the first anniversary of the opening of our Pantry. With almost 70 members we believe that it is a real achievement to have opened and sustained our Pantry during the pandemic.
Members can sign up online but many have heard about us through word of mouth. For a membership fee of £3.50 per week they can purchase approximately £15 worth of shopping. We discuss the Pantry with our Foodbank visitors and if they wish we can sign them up or we can also refer them to their own local Pantry.
But what happens if a Pantry member struggles to find £3.50?
One member messaged me a few weeks ago after we had made contact after we hadn’t seen her for a while: “I’ve not had one penny to come. I have made a new Universal Credit claim and as soon as the new claim comes it will be great to come back. Pantry has helped me but I’ve not had any funds”
We were able to refer her for a Foodbank voucher and she replied: “I am most grateful and thank-you. I need to come and see someone about my debt problems but not had the courage to ask”
It did indeed take courage to admit that she needed help and I was able to refer her to our community money adviser and a debt adviser. She’s now receiving the support she needs. A couple of Foodbank vouchers helped her during those difficult weeks and we continue to stay in touch at the Pantry.
We’ve been able to relax some of the restrictions on Friday mornings and are now able to allow more than one visitor at a time into the Foodbank. Waiting time and food handling is still restricted and we continue to maintain social distancing.
We’ve had more people interested in volunteering and this is good news as we will soon be losing a couple of our student volunteers who will be returning home.