Last week, National World launched its company-wide campaign - a fundraiser for foodbank network Trussell Trust.
The Trussell Trust is a charity with a network of more than 1,300 food bank centres across the UK. You may not have noticed them in your community but with 40,000 volunteers working tirelessly round the clock to make sure people facing hunger can access the food and support they need.
Lindsey Stockton works at the Leek and District Foodbank. She has been involved with the foodbank for four years. She outlined what it is like to volunteer at the foodbank and what she does on a daily basis to help those who use the foodbank.
She said: “When I started as a volunteer in 2018, each day felt like a routine. I would come for my shift and make sure every single person who came through our doors felt welcome and safe. Then I’d help them find the additional support they need so they could move on from needing a food bank.
“Now, it’s different. Like so many people, so many food banks, the pandemic turned our world upside down. We used to provide the food that people needed to survive, but it’s moved beyond that. We offer so much more than food because that’s what people need. Advice, support, kindness, someone to listen to them.”
“My first stop of the day is to pick up our van so I can start our daily food collections from our drop off boxes in local supermarkets. This is an essential job, but it’s become harder since petrol prices started soaring. We need the food but it’s costing us more and more to get it and it’s causing a real strain on our finances.
“Thankfully today’s collection points are all at least half full, so it’s been worth it. But, as prices have gone through the roof, that’s not always the case.”
“When I get back to the food bank centre I have to start the job that is probably my least favourite of the day, unpacking the van and carrying baskets of tins across the car park in the rain and dropping it off to be sorted.
“Once it’s all in I sift through it with some of our amazing volunteers and start to make up food parcels. We have pre-set sizes for food parcels, depending on how many people it needs to feed over a three day period. We try to make sure everyone has some tinned vegetables, some tinned meat, and of course some UHT milk so that they can make sure they can have a cuppa.
“Today’s collection had a mountain of pasta in it, but no pasta sauce so I’ll have to make a note of that so we can buy some later in the week. As we’re getting more people through the door we’re having to buy more food to top up donations and pasta sauce is always on the shopping list. We want people to have rounded meals, so don’t want to send them away with plain pasta for their tea.
“Packing parcels normally takes a few hours but it can take longer if we have a really great few days of food donations – though this is becoming rarer.”
“It’s eerily quiet when I open the doors for our afternoon food bank session, but I can see a woman standing at the end of the road. I think I know who she is. We spoke on the phone yesterday and she was in tears.
“Her children’s school had referred her to us after they turned up for a non-uniform day at school in their school uniform because they didn’t have enough suitable clothes.
“I smile at her and walk back in. I know that sometimes it takes people a bit to walk through the doors.
“Every day I call people who have been referred to us for the first time. I want them to know that we’re here for them and will do all we can for them. I want them to know that there is no shame in walking through our doors, no shame in receiving help.
“I’ve not met a single person who hasn’t been let down in one way or another and I promise them all that we won’t let them down. Around 50 per cent of the people we see now are visiting us for the first time, and it’s only getting worse. The cost of living crisis is taking its toll on everyone.
“When I hear the door open, I look up and see her. She’s got her coat wrapped around her and she looks anxious. I smile and stand up and walk over to introduce myself. With everyone who comes to visit us, we welcome them and ask what they need and check any dietary requirements.
“Once the formalities are done, I take her through to our café and we have a sit down with a hot drink. She tells me about her children, about how she’s been trying to find work but that she can’t afford childcare so can’t find a job that fits around her caring responsibilities. We’ve only got bourbons to offer her to go with her coffee, and we laugh when I tell her that I’ll make sure we have custard creams too if she needs to come again.
“As we talk, I can hear in the background the hustle and bustle of the food bank as it gets busier. Volunteers are in and out talking to the people who’ve come to see us today and making sure they’ve got what they need for the next few days.”
“After we say goodbye to our last visitors of the day, and close our doors, we breathe a collective exhausted sigh. It was busy today in the end, too busy for our liking to be honest. We’re always here for people, but every day I feel my heart breaking a little bit more. We shouldn’t have to exist, none of this should have to be happening.”
“I’ve got to make a difficult call. It’s to a woman in her 70s who has had to go back to work because she can’t afford to survive. Her employers have been in touch to see if we can support her so I want to talk her through what the process will be.
“I’ll tell her how she can get her food voucher and when she can visit, and I’ll find out a bit more about her so when she arrives I’ll have all the information she needs to get more support than just an emergency food parcel.”
“The day has finished and the other volunteers have gone home, but I’m still here. I’ve got a meeting shortly with a local knitting group who are making clothes for children. We want to work out what we’ll need and how we’ll get it to the families who need them. They make some really lovely pieces, it’s just a shame they don’t do jumpers in my size or I’d put my order in!
“I’m home now but I’ve got one more call to make. We’re working with a chef from a local restaurant who is making recipe cards for us to put in our food parcels. I need to talk him through what an average food parcel contains so that he’s got an idea of what we’re working with.
“Most recipe cards need all sorts, bits of fresh vegetables and meat and loads of herbs and spices, so to make cooking easier he’s designing recipes using only the items we’d usually put in a food parcel.
“Our days are long at the food bank, but for as long as we’re needed we’ll keep on turning up and giving all we can. We never say no, we say we’ll find a way to help and that’s how it has to be until real change comes.
“The day we close our doors for good, I will cry. I’ll cry for the community of volunteers I’ll miss, and I’ll cry more happy tears because I know I’ll be able to walk down the street knowing I did all I could and that I was no longer needed.”