At Lincoln Foodbank we have always said that we ‘provide 3 day emergency food parcels for local people in crisis’ but really it’s about so much more. The heart behind Foodbank is to build genuine connections with people and help empower them out of their current situation. So many different people come through the doors of our Distribution Centers from different walks of life and each persons circumstances are unique. In 2020 Lincoln Foodbank provided 2649 vouchers to 5722 people making it our busiest year ever. Our volunteers ensure that each person is met with love, compassion and is made to feel that they matter, that they are important and that we care. Lockdown has created some challenges in this but the Foodbank volunteers continue to push forward and continue to seek connection.
We have 4 Distribution Centers around the city and I caught up with the team leader based at the Bridge Community Hub, here’s what a typical day looks like for them:
Our food bank is open for two hours a day, four days a week. We’ve had to change the way we work during lockdown which has been frustrating but important. Instead of having plenty of volunteers and time to sit down with every guest for a brew and a chat, we’re having to socially distance, run on minimum staff and try to minimise the time people spend here. Despite all that, we can show love and honour through the way we talk to people and welcome them in to the building. It also helps that we’re able to offer not just food but also toiletries, pet food, fresh fruit and veg (thanks to Fareshare and Gousto) and even clothes.
We have a different team of volunteers every day and we try to arrange it so each team includes one person from the church and one ex-foodbank user who is keen to help out. As the team leader, it’s my job to look after the volunteers and then they in turn create a culture of welcome and care for our guests.
Before lockdown, we’d be fairly busy every day but we seem to have at least one quiet day most weeks now. A lot of other amazing organisations are distributing food and helping cover the city and we’re a bit of a trek for a lot of people, particularly those in the north. I’m not sure we have an average day but today we supported four single people, three couples and four families. That’s twenty five people helped out thanks to the generosity of people from all over the city. Sometimes we see fewer than that, but even if we only help out one person, that one person is worth two hours of anyone’s time.
Of the people we saw today, one was a young lady who has struggled with drugs all her life. She’s been coming in daily for months now and we’ve all got to know her. She’s cut down on drugs, stopped smoking and leaves for residential rehab on Tuesday. She’s put on a bit of weight and looks healthier and happier than she has in years. Another family we met have been moved to emergency accommodation by the council and had nothing: between us and Life church, we supplied food, toiletries, some vouchers they can use to buy cleaning products and some free clothes to keep them warm and dry.
This morning we did our first shop for the vegetable exchange scheme we’ve set up and we’ve got three local chefs preparing cooking videos and meal packs that we can supply to food bank users from next week. We’ve got a befriending scheme starting to match isolated people up with members of our local church and one of our volunteers completed a funding bid to help us set up a lending library for slow cookers, hobs and pots and pans.
After two hours of pretty intense activity, we have a chat and make sure the volunteer team are all well and feeling happy before they head off to do all the other things they do for free. Soon I’m on my own again making a brew before I crack on with the cleaning. Next week, we’re off again.