Food Bank Diary May 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 and we provide three-day emergency food parcels to people in crisis across the North end of the city in partnership with the Trussell Trust. 

In my last update, I detailed what life had been like during the first few weeks of the Covid-19 crisis here at St Andrew’s. This month I’m going to try and give a flavour of what our current process looks like, at our central packing centre in Anfield.

We have moved from packing individual parcels for people at the centres, to pre-packing in bulk in Anfield,  and then distributing these to the individual centres. This minimises the amount of handling each item of food gets and enables us to provide a safe environment for our volunteers to pack in.

Here are some numbers associated with our operation since the lockdown began on Monday 23 March:

  • We have 152 new volunteers and they have worked nearly 1,000 hours
  • We have issued 891 vouchers which have helped to feed 1,263 adults and 737 children
  • We have distributed 25,786 kilograms of food and have completed 385 home deliveries

These are some pretty impressive numbers and I am very proud of the work we have done and the outcomes we have achieved. It has to be said though that there is no way we could have achieved much of this without help from the army of volunteers. If you are one of those, please accept my sincerest thanks!

I went down to the packing centre in Anfield today to see how things were going. As I arrived, the fruit and veg for the day were being unloaded and taken into the centre by a team of 10 volunteers. All faithfully adhering to social distancing measures, the atmosphere was really warm. Friendly faces, all happy helping out. They were being very ably coordinated by one of our lead volunteers Jimmy.

Jimmy usually works for Food for Thought, enabling the supply of 50,000 meals each month into 20 of our city’s schools. He has been instrumental in the smooth running of our packing centre and we are very grateful to him and the wider company for their support.

The fresh produce is taken into the centre and spread along a large central set of tables. Then the volunteers queue up maintaining distance between each other and work their way down the line filling a bag with the agreed allocation of each item. Broadly speaking every bag contains potatoes, cabbage, celery, carrots, onions, apples, oranges, garlic, a chilli and a stick of ginger.

As this is happening our bread comes in. We are being served by the wonderful Angela McKay from Homebaked in Anfield and the effervescent Owen McShane from the Kensington Bread Company. Both these guys have gone above and beyond in their support of our operation!

Once these bags are complete, the team clean down the surfaces, say goodbye to each other and head off. Thirty minutes later, the next group of volunteers come in, following the same strict procedures but this time focussing on creating the pre-packed food parcels that will go out to each of our centres.

These boxes will be taken to our network of 20 distribution points across the city and be exchanged for a food bank voucher which will have been issued by someone in a position of support for the family or individual in crisis.

Personally, things have really settled down in the last week or so. Our office volunteers are growing in confidence and can deal with most of the queries that come in which means I can focus on more mundane – but no less important and also recently neglected tasks – such as getting the accounts sorted for the last financial year.

I remain incredibly proud of what we have achieved, moved by the support we have received and feel increasingly confident that whatever the world throws at us, we can handle it.