Food Bank Diary - Beryl Bellew

BLOG: Food Bank Diary – January

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Beryl Bellew is a founding volunteer at the North Liverpool Foodbank. We have been following events at the food bank over the last 12 months. Here, Beryl reflects on the impact of the third national lockdown and their busiest day of the week, Fridays.

I don’t think any of us were surprised when we went into a national lockdown in January and as anticipated, food banks and pantries were permitted to remain open as an essential service.

We’ve now moved to a collect-at-the-door service. So, in addition to the minimum number of volunteers we only allow one other person in the building to collect pre-packed food bags.

So far this year we are averaging around 15 callers every Friday morning. We’ve noticed more support workers than usual collecting food on behalf of their clients.

A small, dedicated team continue to pre-pack food bags and toiletries on Thursday ready for Friday. We are again sharing the church hall with another group of volunteers who are packing boxes of emergency food parcels for delivery to people who are shielding.

We are occasionally questioned about the lack of certain food items or the amount that is provided. All callers receive the same food items from a prescribed list, the quantity varies according to the size of the household. This list is provided by the Trussell Trust and comprises nutritionally balanced items. Almost always we are able to provide everything on the list or a suitable alternative. Our packers will try to pack items which will enable the recipient to put together substantial meals for three days.

Over and above the standard items, we receive regular donations of what we refer to as “extras”. For example: ketchup, OXO cubes, flour, olive oil, pickle, salad cream and other store-cupboard items that many of us take for granted. We now add these items randomly to the food bags.

We receive a regular supply of fruit and veg and make up stew packs and are also able to provide portions of meat and dairy items.

We said goodbye to one of our longstanding volunteers last month. We’re happy to say that she is starting employment in a few weeks time as a community money adviser. It will be nice to continue to work with her in her new role as we will be able to signpost any of our callers to her if they need advice.

We’ve also welcomed back other volunteers who have returned after a period of shielding or students returning to Liverpool after their Christmas vacation.

It’s always good to receive positive feedback and here are extracts from two messages I received just before Christmas:

“I have just moved back to the Liverpool area and was helped out by the food bank last Friday, the staff were so kind and helpful. I wondered if in the new year you needed any help at all as I would love to volunteer.”

I forwarded this to the volunteer concerned. She had been very supportive and gone out of her way to help this young woman, not only with food but in other ways. One of the phone calls she made was to a St Andrew’s church staff member who in turn had been able to offer more help.

The volunteer sent me the following reply.

“So impressed with the speed that St Andrew’s moves to help – absolutely brilliant. The woman will be delighted.”