In August 2017, I read an online article about the West End Foodbank in Newcastle. The article highlighted the fact that this foodbank, close to our office, was the most utilised in England, and that the demand for food grew substantially during school holidays. I was aware that there were foodbanks throughout the UK but had no real idea of how they operated, who used them, how we could donate, and how donations are utilised. The article stated that without school meals or breakfast clubs, many children would not receive a hot meal during school holidays, and parents were struggling to feed their families.
I approached our responsible business manager and asked if we could run a firm-wide campaign to donate to the foodbank during the summer school holidays and within weeks, we were able to donate a huge amount of food and toiletries to the foodbank. We raised awareness of food poverty together with the fact that this occurs in our local communities.
After research, I realised that people need to be referred by an approved third party such as a GP, Housing Office or CAB to utilise foodbanks. Their referral voucher entitled them to an emergency 3 day food parcel for either an individual or a family. In addition, toiletries, nappies and even pet food are available.
I subsequently discovered that West End Foodbank isn't just a place to pick up food parcels from, there is a real community spirit there with people stopping to chat. Everyone who attends the West End Foodbank is provided with a hot drink, and is offered a hot meal too. A number of foodbanks also offer gateway assistance to people who need advice about benefit claims or managing debt.
Due to the amazing effort by colleagues, this one off campaign has evolved into a permanent initiative and we have donated 6.5 tonnes of food and toiletries to date. In Newcastle we have also supported the foodbank in a number of ways, one colleague ran the Edinburgh Marathon, other colleagues have made financial donations which have enabled us to make regular monthly deliveries.
I have taken away many things from the foodbank, the main one being the inclusive atmosphere created by volunteers. Our donations help the foodbank to continue to help not only the most vulnerable in our society but also those who may have suffered a one-off set-back, and are unable to feed their families. I am proud that this initiative helps our local community, and has been embraced by colleagues throughout our offices.