Beryl Bellew is a founding volunteer at the North Liverpool Foodbank. Throughout this year Beryl and her fellow volunteers have shared their experiences of giving their time to this vital community service. In her final post, Beryl reflects on the past extraordinary 12 months…
“Thank you so much for sitting with me and chatting it’s really helped I was so anxious and embarrassed about coming to Foodbank but It wasn’t as bad as I thought”
These were the words of one of our visitors who came to Foodbank and she was clearly very anxious, so I just sat with her and chatted while we were waiting for her bags to be brought to her. This was the first time she’s been to Foodbank. She’d been a paid carer for many years but now due to her own ill health she had to give up work. Unfortunately, it was also discovered that she had been massively overpaid and sadly all her benefits have now been suspended until February.
This lady is just one of almost 700 people who have visited St Andrew’s Foodbank during 2020. And as we come to the end of December we’ve been reflecting on the work that we’ve done here during the past year and also the difference that the pandemic has made to our Foodbank.
During 2020 our Friday morning Foodbank has provided 6,445 kilos of emergency food to 1,623 people, including 652 children.
Despite all the restrictions placed on us by coronavirus we’ve been able to strengthen our amazing team of volunteers and between us we have clocked up almost 700 hours of volunteer time since January.
Sadly, one of our volunteers passed away early in the year. Vicky had been a regular volunteer on Friday mornings and with the support of her carer helped to serve refreshments to our visitors. She was always friendly with a happy, smiling face and had only recently invited us to her fortieth birthday celebrations.
We also missed some long-standing volunteers who have had to shield since March and look forward to them returning as soon as possible in 2021. We welcomed several new volunteers, some who are students, now having more time to volunteer because of the pandemic, and others who have been furloughed by their employers. And, of course, we have also had plenty of other members of our local community who just want to help out during this dreadful time.
It’s been nice to receive some positive feedback recently from one of the agencies with which we closely work. The support workers have commented on how friendly our volunteers are and how well looked after their clients feel.
Many of our visitors during the pandemic are first-time users of Foodbank.
One gentleman, a highly skilled worker in the hospitality industry told us “I never thought I would need to go to a Foodbank. I’ve never been out of work before, I’ve always been able to move easily from one job to another. My whole world has been turned upside down, me and my family have lost our security.”
Coronavirus has made things so much more difficult for those who were already vulnerable and living under very difficult circumstances. Some of the services to which we usually signpost are struggling to maintain their provision, others have stopped their face-to-face support and some people find it difficult to access telephone or online support.
From the end of March, the church hall was also used as a packing depot by volunteers and partner organisations, including Liverpool City Council, and each day emergency food parcels were packed and delivered across the city. This meant a fall in the number of personal callers to our Foodbank, however once the lockdown ended and the delivery service stopped, to all but a few, the numbers visiting in person have started to rise again.
Our last Foodbank of 2020 was on Friday 18 December as we were closed on Christmas Day and will also be closed on New Year’s day. Our doors will reopen on Friday, 8 January.
Other foodbanks across the city will be open over the holiday period. It’s wonderful to see churches, other faith groups and community groups working together across Liverpool to provide emergency food support throughout the year and especially at Christmas.