Beryl Bellew is a founding volunteer at the North Liverpool Foodbank. She has been writing a monthly blog since January 2020. This is her final entry…
As we approached Freedom Day on 19 July the CEO of our Community Network wrote to all of our Foodbanks to advise us of the changes but also to ask us to review the good practices that we had introduced during the pandemic and encouraged us to continue to implement safety measures in order to protect our volunteers and visitors.
Looking back over the past 18 months of the pandemic, we’re grateful that we were able to sustain the provision of emergency food. Initially this was a delivery service to the people who were unable to leave their homes and a collection service of pre-packed food from our centre, which we were able to keep open, thanks to a handful of volunteers who came faithfully each week.
As restrictions gradually lifted we were able to return to almost our normal operation. Volunteers returned after shielding and we no longer needed to pre-pack the bags. Visitors were allowed to enter the building and once again we were able to spend some time chatting and signposting people for further support.
Our supply of food continued despite some of our regular sources drying up. For example, the closure of the football stadiums meant that we no longer received the weekly donations from Liverpool and Everton fans. This was a massive loss and yet we continued to receive financial donations instead, which enabled us to purchase the food we needed.
The number of people attending on Friday mornings continues to fluctuate. We’re aware of more families using Foodbank, many for the first time. They tell us about the problems of being furloughed or being laid off work and being unable to cope on reduced wages or benefits. During the winter months we were regularly asked if we could help with fuel bills. We were able to signpost to other sources of help, including our newly appointed benefits advisor and community money adviser.
Food Pantries have also been developing steadily across the area and we’ve been encouraging people to become members if they can.
We’re also speaking to people who are understandably very worried about the proposed reduction to their Universal Credit in October. The loss of £20 a week will have serious consequences for their family budgets and push more of them into food poverty. If this decision goes ahead, we fear there will be more people who need the support of foodbanks.