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.
“There was definitely a nip in the air as I opened up the church hall just before 9am. It’s the last Friday in September and the start of Autumn.
Trussell Trust’s latest research forecasts that over the coming winter, nationally six emergency food parcels will be issued every minute.
As we now near the end of September our numbers are rising, with our average being about 11 callers each Friday morning and it seems to us that we are seeing more families needing our help and also more first-time users.
We open at 10.30am but before then we have a number of tasks to complete. Firstly, we need to ensure that the procedures put in place to protect our visitors and volunteers are set up, tables and chairs wiped down, social-distancing signs displayed and hand sanitisers in place.
Our volunteers start to arrive from about 9.30am and quickly begin setting up. It’s great to see our volunteers gradually returning after having shielded during lockdown. Understandably some are a bit nervous and we’re able to allocate roles with little or no public contact.
Before opening we begin our day with a prayer of thankfulness and ask for protection for all volunteers and visitors.
We know that food bank donations have dropped significantly, due to less food being donated in supermarkets and no football match collections. We are relieved and pleased to see therefore, that our weekly order has arrived from the warehouse and contains all that we requested. We have also received a limited – but welcome – supply of fresh fruit, veg and some dairy produce.
We put our food bank banner up outside shortly before 10.30am but we usually have at least one or two people arriving much earlier. Unlike the food pantry, whose members live locally, many of our food bank users travel from other parts of North Liverpool. They may not be familiar with the bus routes or have to walk.
Most people come prepared with their face coverings and we try our best to limit their waiting time.
Our waiting area is socially-distanced and we have a one-way system in place.
The agencies we work with mostly now issue e-vouchers and while we are registering callers we have the opportunity for brief conversations.
Is there anything else we can help with?
Would an appointment with our welfare benefits or debt adviser be useful?
Have you thought about joining the food pantry?
Many of our pantry members comment that joining the pantry has helped them manage their budgets better.
Sadly, we are accustomed to providing food to people who don’t have the usual cooking facilities. Pat, our lead packer is excellent at putting together bags for anyone who has only an electric kettle and maybe a microwave.
We were challenged last week when we needed to pack food for a lady who was homeless and without any facilities. She was being supported by an outreach worker who came on her behalf and hopefully she would soon be helped into better circumstances. In the meantime we could only offer her fresh fruit, milk, juice, tinned fruit, custard, rice pudding, tinned cold meat and fish – ring pull cans only, in case she didn’t have a can opener, biscuits, jelly cubes and some sweets. In addition to some toiletries and sanitary towels.
We rarely receive any feedback so unfortunately we probably won’t get to know how this lady gets on.
So we closed our session on Friday, being reminded that it was the 25th of the month, exactly three months to Christmas Day.”