Behind the scenes at Thornbury Foodbank
TRAYS of cans, toiletries, snacks and boxes upon boxes of groceries at the ready, every Friday foodbank volunteers in Thornbury welcome the town's hidden hungry as they file in to the Baptist Church.
The team runs a tight ship and go about each task with military precision.
Each family or customers is ushered in to the bank's cafe area and served a hot drink and a piece of cake, while members check their voucher, a signed form from the council, GP surgery or school, allowing them access to the service.
They then collect a pre-packed food parcel, containing three days' worth of meals per person, and add hygiene products and toiletries as needed as well as some extras such as petfood.
Each basic package is filled with cereal, soup, beans or spaghetti, meat or vegetarian pies, sugar, pasta, tea or coffee, rice pudding, mash and powdered milk, as well as jam, bread and toilet paper.
The foodbank is only a temporary solution however, as locals are only entitled to use it three times.
This is why the volunteers lend a sympathetic ear to customers with a view to advising them on a more long-term solution. They will soon be trained by the Citizen Advice Bureau staff to ensure people in dire straits leave with the right guidance or an adequate referral.
“Our job is primarily to meet an immediate need,” said foodbank management committee chairman Mike Spiller. “Ideally this foodbank would not exist, people would not need help but they do.”
Some 144 people from all walks of life have sought the help of the foodbank to tie them over until the next pay cheque.
Most, approximately 40 per cent, are force to turn to the service due to cuts to their benefits. The introduction of the bedroom tax, according to the volunteers, has led many through the foodbank’s doors. Others have fallen on hard times after being made redundant, a long illness or simply have found their wages did not stretch far enough.
“You can get a strange situation when people come in their nice car and have a smart phone but they are in a desperate situation,” Mike, 69, said. “They need help to tie them over. It’s a short term solution until they get back on track."
Rod McLellan, 65, one of the foodbank’s founding members, said reaching out for help was often a trying experience for users. But whatever their state of mind, future customers can rest assured they will never be judged or sneered at.
“A lot of people are very embarrassed and we hope they feel less embarrassed when they leave,” he said. “They don’t know what sort of reception they are going to get. But there is no judgement whatsoever.”
To the surprise of many, not least the volunteers themselves, the foodbank s donated more than 600kg of non-perishables since launching in August.
Nicky Phipps, 43, one of 55 volunteers said: “I couldn’t believe that there would be a need for a foodbank in Thornbury because it is quite an affluent area. It didn’t even cross my mind. It has been eye-opening.”
The foodbank is open every Friday between 2pm and 4pm. Vouchers are available from the One Stop Shop, schools, GP practices, the CAB and Age UK.
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