Over the course of my time as a foodbank volunteer, we have changed our routine many, many times. This has not been by choice but necessity, as a result of the pandemic. We actually joke about how often we change how we do things, because the situation has always been in flux.
Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, foodbank clients could come inside the community centre and have a hot drink and some biscuits while we sorted their food. This part of our service is something we have all been sad to lose. With the risk of transmission so high, we could no longer welcome people inside, or offer refreshments. Alongside PPE, we began working through partitions and across table tops, to keep everyone safe and socially distanced. The entire community centre became the operations of the foodbank. Normally it would have brownies, scouts, playgroups, toddler classes, prayer meetings and so on.
As the regulations began to ease, we moved all of the foodbank operations to our main donation storage building. All our client interactions were now outside – wonderful during the summer, but the inevitability of winter posed more practical issues.
The new routine…
And so, in the midst of autumn, this week we began our latest new routine and hybrid of what has come before. Clients can now come back inside the community centre when they arrive, to have a chat with volunteers as we take them through paperwork and put together their shopping list. From there we head to the donations building and put together their bags. This gives clients some much needed face to face time with volunteers and gives us all shelter during the colder months. We are not yet free of social distancing measures given the structural layout of the buildings, and keeping everyone safe remains a priority.
Being able to talk to volunteers is an essential part of how we operate. It gives clients a chance to let us know how they are. These check-ins give us an opportunity to link them to organisations that may be able to help them. This could be our town’s Community Fridge, help with free sanitary items or fuel savings.
This week I spoke with a woman who had recently lost her job. From our conversation I was able to suggest a local restaurant that we knew were in need of waiting staff. Conversations can always open up opportunities and, I hope, have clients leave feeling better or more hopeful than when they arrived.
To find out more about foodbanks or becoming a foodbank volunteer, visit The Trussell Trust website.