A community foodbankMay 19, 2020
When I heard that my brother-in-law was involved in running a local food bank, I immediately volunteered to help, partly because it gets me out of the house and gives me a focus. I can’t say that I’ve found lockdown difficult (political thoughts aside). I’m missing climbing and the mountains like mad, though I’ve more than enough to do at home, and I love my daily runs or cycles. But the days do run into each other, so it’s good to have a purposeful task, even if it is only for two hours every Monday.
I have also offered my services as an unpaid delivery driver for a local food business, and I applied to the “Pick for Britain” campaign, to do fruit picking. I did not get a reply from either.
I can’t even get unpaid work these days!
Five working days? That was a month ago, and still no response…
So it’s great to be able to help out my brother-in-law, Steve, with his community food bank. It’s easy to follow social distancing rules while doing the work, and we use gloves, hand sanitiser and even masks (I’m a hay fever sufferer, and the mask seemed to make this worse – it felt very unhygienic).
Many people have lost jobs during the coronavirus crisis, and UK food banks have reported a record demand for food recently. My sister and her husband live in a lovely part of Glasgow, but there is a lot of deprivation in the area, and Steve has done a lot of work to improve community amenities, turning a patch of wasteland into a park, with flowers and fruit trees.
He has also done work to reclaim and revive abandoned sports grounds and playing fields in the vicinity, and in doing so, he’s got to know a lot of local people.
Last year he partnered with some friends to launch a social enterprise called West End Adventure, which organises outdoor activities like paddleboarding, canoeing, hillwalking and cycling. They operate as an outdoor centre for kids in the school holidays, which has been hugely popular – but of course, it had to close when the lockdown was imposed.
The business subscribes to a service that provides food at cheap rates – mainly discounted ranges from supermarkets, so that they can provide meals for the children who come to do the activities. The subscription is a yearly one, so instead of the unused food going to waste while the business is closed, it is being used to feed the needy in the community.
Steve packing up the food.
The food is delivered to the business every week, and then Steve drives it to an open spot, sets up the gazebo, and we start packing the food into boxes for distribution.
Steve’s daughter Ellie also helps out with the food bank. Steve is originally from Ohio, and Ellie, who is 23, went to the States to study Economics and Mandarin at Berkeley University. When my mum got ill in December, Ellie flew home. Mum died a month later, and as Ellie had recently graduated, she decided to extend her stay, to be with the family.
Then lockdown came along, and she was unable to go back.
This has been very difficult for her, as she misses her long-term boyfriend in the States terribly, and she was due to start working for a financial company in San Francisco in June. Luckily they have postponed the start of her employment, and are even going to pay her for the time she will miss. So Ellie is being furloughed for a job she has not even started yet!
I think getting out and doing something like this in the fresh air helps you forget your own problems. I don’t think people are starving in the area (I certainly hope not), but I think there are people who don’t have enough, and don’t know where to turn. Some of them are elderly and self-isolating.
Local people, including a couple of young kids, have been helping to take the boxes of food to the people who need it, after the food has been organised into equal packages.
Young volunteers taking the boxes we had packed up to the people who need it, some of whom are elderly and self-isolating.
The coronavirus situation has put a lot of businesses under pressure, especially new businesses. But running a weekly food bank is a great way for a new business to continue serving the community during lockdown. And it’s a literal breath of fresh air for the people organising it and helping out too.
Steve’s dog Pepper is not interested in the food and prefers to chew a stick.