As promised some months ago, we’d like to tell you more about the Foodbank in Aston and Nechells, a very encouraging initiative.
Two years ago, the churches in Aston started to explore the idea of setting up a foodbank, and contacted the Trussell Trust, a charity who provide guidance and advice about how to do this (for computer users, more information can be found at http://www.trusselltrust.org/foodbank-projects). Our Foodbank branch opened last November.
The concept is simple but effective: build up a large supply of long-life food (tins and packets – not fresh food because it goes off so quickly), and then from these stocks help clients who have hit a crisis and have no money to feed themselves or their families.
The Foodbank works with local professional agencies, who can assess which of their clients need emergency food supplies. The agency issues the client with a voucher for three days’ worth of food for themselves and any dependents. We run two distribution sessions each week; while volunteers choose and pack the food, others give the client a cuppa, listen to their story, and suggest ways in which they can get help.
This is not a long-term solution, but can be vital if there has been a sudden loss of income (for example because a benefit payment has been delayed). Obviously, the Foodbank has to have a lot of food; in our first six months we received nearly 5,000 kilos, a staggering amount (see the picture)! This was mainly donated by churches, but also by schools and other organisations. We have also had an extremely generous response every time we ask customers at a local supermarket to donate at least one item from their weekly shop.
To make this work, a large pool of volunteers is needed. In Aston and Nechells we have at least 35, from ten churches, who help in different ways. This might be by sorting the donated food, or helping at distribution sessions, or participating in a supermarket collection. Here are some of these volunteers, at a recent feedback evening.
After a slow start, with few clients being referred (but even so 281 individuals were helped in the first six months), we are now in a situation where more food is being given out every week than is coming in! It is sad that in an affluent country like Britain such help is needed; but it is a wonderful way in which to express God’s love for the needy and marginalised people in our neighbourhood.