Beryl Bellew is a founding volunteer at the North Liverpool Foodbank. Since the introduction of lockdown, Beryl has had to take a step back from the project she helped to create to shield from coronavirus. Now, as lockdown eases, Beryl is gradually returning to her former duties and provides us with this month’s instalment of the Food Bank Diary.
“Like so many others I had to shield from March until the end of June and really missed my weekly contact with other volunteers and visitors to our food bank. My time wasn’t wasted, as I was part of a team that was able to work from home setting up the Food Pantry in St Andrew’s Church, the third one to open in North Liverpool.
Existing alongside food banks, the pantries offer people in the local community the opportunity to become members for £3.50 a week. Members can top up their weekly shopping with about £20 worth of food, including fresh meat, fruit and veg and dairy produce. St Andrew’s now has 60 members, we started in June with a delivery-only service, moving to the opening of our pantry shop in the church at the beginning of August.
We’ve heard many stories throughout lockdown of the amazing work that volunteers have done up and down the country. Many people from across communities pulling together to help those in need of food and other support. Here in North Liverpool, we’ve had a fantastic response and throughout lockdown formed partnerships and recruited new volunteers who packed and delivered food boxes to the highly vulnerable. We continue with some deliveries to the housebound, but in the main, those needing emergency food will visit a food bank. There is a food bank open across North Liverpool every day of the week, except Sunday.
Thanks to the dedication of three of our regular volunteers, Pat, Helen and Lyndsay and the support of St Andrew’s Community Network, we were able to continue to operate our St Andrew’s Foodbank throughout lockdown.
Along with thousands of other people returning to work after lockdown, I returned to the food bank with some trepidation at the beginning of August. Sadly, gone is our cafe-style setting, we’ve had to close our kitchen and after a risk assessment, have created a safe and socially distanced system which enables us to safely provide our visitors with bags of food, toiletries and fresh fruit and veg. Keeping our volunteers and visitors safe is a high priority. We miss the chance to sit and chat with visitors over a cup of tea, but we still signpost for further help where we can.
In the first three weeks of August, we’ve had 19 visitors calling in with vouchers, feeding 42 people. We’ve been surprised by these low numbers but can see that they are starting to rise and anticipate that as more within our community are affected by redundancy and financial difficulties they will turn to a food bank. Some of our visitors have also shown an interest in joining the food pantry.
We are building up our team of volunteers again, about half of them have been shielding and will be returning later in September.”