Food Bank Diary - Beryl Bellew

The Food Bank Diary | January

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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. 

There are 21 food banks across Liverpool supported by the Trussell Trust. Last year, they helped to feed nearly 20,000 people providing three-day food parcels.

St Andrew’s Church in Clubmoor is a lifeline for many.  Beryl  Bellew  has been volunteering at this branch for the last eight years. She has witnessed first-hand the rising demand from those who can’t afford to feed their families or themselves.

Over the next 12 months Beryl will be sharing her food bank diary to give us a picture of a year in the life of St Andrew’s Food bank.


January

“In the run-up to Christmas, the generosity of the public was amazing. On our final day before the holidays, we were thrilled when two teachers and four children came in from one of the local primary schools to deliver four bin bags full of food they had collected.

“Everyone visiting the food bank receives the same selection of items put together from a nutritionally-balanced list.

The quantity varies according to the size of the family, so a single person would usually expect to receive two carrier bags of food. Over and above this we are sometimes able to give additional items of fresh veg, toiletries and bread.

Throughout December we saw some of our busiest times and January is proving to be as busy as anticipated.

Beryl Bellew from St Andrew’s Food bank

“Throughout December we saw some of our busiest times and January is proving to be as busy as anticipated. It seems to us that some are still struggling while waiting for their Universal Credit to be sorted. Others have finished their temporary Christmas work contracts and are needing help with food to tide them over until they find more work or benefits kick in.

“The start to last Friday was brightened by a huge bucket of beautiful daffodils brought in by our van driver, donated by our local Marks and Spencer along with their regular contribution of bread and pastries.

“So each of our visitors received a bunch of daffs and it’s surprising the conversations that started up. For example, the two lads living in a hostel who said they would brighten up their room. Then there was the lady who was reminded that daffs were her late mother’s favourite flowers and the man who would take the flowers to his mum’s grave as it was her birthday.” 

Background: 

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. 

Eight years down the line and the North Liverpool food bank operates in 13 different locations across the north of the city. It provides life-saving food parcels every day of the week except Sunday. 

Over the last year, we have seen an increase in the number of working people on low wages coming in for help

Beryl Bellew from St Andrew’s Food bank

And the demand for this vital service shows no signs of slowing down. Last year the foodbank saw a 50 per cent increase in the number of referrals. Many say it was due to the continued rollout of Universal Credit and the six-weeks-wait for the first benefit payment, 

“A lot of people think that those using foodbanks are unemployed,” said Beryl. “But over the last year, we have seen an increase in the number of working people on low wages coming in for help. We don’t have a lot of people who rely on the food bank, for many we only see them once or twice. They need a little extra help to tide them over and that can make all the difference when they don’t have anything to eat.”

As well as providing food parcels, the St Andrew’s Community Network offers a whole host of other services that support people to get back on their feet. 

In a typical year, it helps around a thousand people through its debt advice service. We are talking about people who are forced into the frankly terrifying downward spiral of robbing Peter to pay Paul that is relying on high-interest credit cards to pay household bills.

Beryl and her foodbank colleagues have been hard-pressed over the busy festive period and are now bracing themselves for another tragically recording-breaking year.  St Andrews Church remains the busiest of all the foodbank sites in North Liverpool, only nowadays the operation is considerably larger than that first founding cupboard. 

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