Food Bank Diary April 2020

My name is Simon Huthwaite and I am the Operations Manager for St Andrew’s Community Network. The network is the home of North Liverpool Foodbank. We provide three-day emergency food parcels to people in crisis across the north end of the city in partnership with the Trussell Trust. 

As I’m sure you can imagine, since the outbreak of COVID-19 we have been working incredibly hard to re-shape our processes to fit the changing situation. Our priorities have been to keep the people we support, our staff and our volunteers’ safe, and at the same time make sure that no one goes hungry.  

We have developed a strategy to support people across the city working closely with South Liverpool Foodbank, the council and a wide variety of other organisations and it looks like this.

Vouchers – we have moved swiftly to an e-voucher system so agencies can issue vouchers remotely. This is a new process for us and I have a team of three people working around the clock to make this happen. We have so far trained staff at a large number of organisations including the city council, Citizens Advice and local housing associations. If you are someone in need and have had a voucher before, we hope that you will now be able to get a voucher from that support agency over the phone.

If you are an agency who would like to be an e-voucher referrer, please email: admin@standrewslive.org.uk to register your interest.

Food Parcels – instead of individual centres packing food parcels into bags on-site, we have moved the packing to a central warehouse and are sending pre-packed parcels out across the city on a daily basis. This means we are limiting the handling of the goods, able to maintain social distancing at the packing centre and mass-producing enough parcels to meet the need. In addition, we have been able to supplement the normal food parcels with fresh fruit, vegetables and bread, delivered daily to the central packing centre. 

Deliveries – we have never delivered food parcels before, relying on our network of 13 distribution centres. However, as more and more people are forced to self-isolate, we have had to move to a delivery system. We are being ably supported by British Gas engineers to do this for us and are roughly delivering to 10-15 people across the city per day.

Volunteers – we have always been blessed by a fantastic number of excellent volunteers but have needed even more to manage this new way of working. These volunteers have come from a number of places, not least the football clubs – both of whom have been able to mobilise staff teams to help us in a variety of ways. We have received and continue to receive a large number of offers of help. We are doing our best to utilise as many of these offers as possible but it is a very big job that falls mainly to a very small number of people so if you are one of the people who offered and we haven’t been able to use you, I can only apologise, thank you for your offer and say that we will be in touch when we are able.

This situation has proved exceedingly challenging for us, and we have all worked very hard to get to where we are now. I am very proud of the way my staff team and our volunteers have worked together to this end. All of my staff have had to change the way they are working, many working from home and all focussed on getting the food bank process working well when this would sometime not be there usual role.

I have found it difficult to sleep at times, holidays have been cancelled and in any case, it’s difficult to stay off when there is so much work to do!

Simon Huthwaite, Operations Manager for St Andrew’s Community Network

Personally, it has been very stressful at times. The phone rings all day with people needing help. I have found it difficult to sleep at times, holidays have been cancelled and in any case, it’s difficult to stay off when there is so much work to do! I am sure many of you will be familiar with these feelings and situations.

In addition, we expect that as we come out of this crisis situation, there will be a huge number of people in financial difficulty and we are working now to put measures and processes in place to support these people through our debt service in the future.

I want to finish by saying a massive thank you to the individuals, organisation and companies that have helped us get where we are now. To all the people who have donated so generously both financially, in time and with food.

We have always said we could not do what we do without support from people like you and never has that sentiment been better meant than now!