Food banks are sadly becoming an important – and vital – part of our communities in Liverpool. For the next 12 months, Liverpool City Council’s Communications team will be shining a spotlight on the most used food bank in our city. We want to chronicle the daily reality for thousands of men, women and children across Liverpool.
“We are well into February now and as expected the numbers using our Food Bank each Friday is growing, with almost 100 people being fed in the first two weeks of the month.
Our Food Bank is set out cafe style and we encourage our visitors to have a hot drink and light refreshments while they wait for their food to be packed. The average waiting time is probably about 30 minutes.
We talk confidentially to all our visitors about their requirements. Do they prefer tea or coffee? Do they have any special requirements or allergies? Do they eat meat? Do they need any sanitary products or nappies for the baby? We may have pet food that we can offer and at time household products such as washing powder, softener and washing up liquid.
We are able to provide all visitors with toilet rolls and up to three toiletries. These items have to be limited as they are always in short supply. Volunteers help visitors to select from our “extras” table. These are non standard items which have been donated and often include store cupboard items such as ketchup, sauces, gravy granules, cooking oil, stock cubes etc.
We’ve learned to take nothing for granted and can’t assume that everyone has cooking facilities or even a tin opener. Our volunteers are very experienced in putting together items for those who may only have a kettle or microwave.
Some people prefer to wait quietly while their food is being packed, others welcome the opportunity to chat with a volunteer. Volunteers will never pry but are trained to listen and to signpost for further support where appropriate.
We rarely get feedback from our Food Bank users as most of them will visit us on only one or two occasions.
We see many people who are suffering from loneliness and feel isolated. Towards the end of last year one such older lady shared this feeling of isolation with a volunteer.
She had been referred for food due to a change in her benefits and was lingering over her cups of tea, glad of the company and the opportunity to talk. She willingly accepted an invitation to attend the Church’s weekly “Vintage “ group for older people. Our feedback is that she is now a regular attender, has a new circle of friends who are introducing her to other local community activities.”
When Beryl Bellew started out as one of the founding volunteers at the North Liverpool food bank, the team was given a cupboard in which to store the stock.
“We didn’t get anyone coming through the door the first week we opened,” said Beryl. “But word quickly got around and soon the small, dedicated team were looking to expand their operation.”
A trickle of people and families struggling to make ends meet and in need of a short-term pick-me-up soon became a flood as austerity began to bite.