By Amy Colley, Lincoln Foodbank Coordinator.
“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”
― Desmond Tutu
I love this quote by Desmond Tutu and think about it a lot in regards to Foodbank. If Foodbank had a tagline it would be:
“ We provide three day emergency food parcels for local people in crisis”
and that’s great, however in my opinion it’s not enough. If we are really going to tackle the poverty issue in Lincoln we need to get to the root cause of the issue as to why a person is in need of a food parcel in the first place.
There are areas in Lincoln that are in the top 1% of deprivation for the whole of the UK; 1 in 3 children in Lincoln live on or below the poverty line and last year we supported 5,722 people with emergency food parcels. This highlights that there is clearly a bigger problem here and if we think we are going to make a lasting and valuable impact by giving someone three days worth of tinned food then we are kidding ourselves. Now don’t get me wrong, in that moment of crisis the food is so important and is the essential service that we are here to provide. However, if our aim is to empower people to end poverty then we need to do more. We need to ‘go upstream’ and figure out the root cause of the situation; we need to work alongside people, support them and most importantly we want to build lasting and genuine connections with them.
Relationships are so important, they reflect how we see ourselves and how we engage within our communities. As humans we have an inbuilt need to feel connected and like we belong. However, during my six years working at Lincoln Foodbank I have seen so many people who are lonely and without community and as a result their self esteem is so low they don’t feel like they deserve any better.
We know this isn’t true!
We want to build relationships, we want to connect and embed people into their local communities so they feel like they belong, like they matter – because they do! We want them to know they matter and that they are loved and that’s where I believe the real impact and the life changing stuff happens.
We had a lady come to one of our Distribution Centres after mashing her last potato and giving it to her 6-month old child. She had left an abusive relationship, was a single mum and didn’t know where to start in regards to claiming benefits. When she came to the Foodbank she sat down and spoke to one of our amazing volunteers who has connected with her each week since.
It’s been six months since she reached out to our Foodbank volunteer and her situation has changed in a dramatic way: she is thriving! The local church and the Foodbank volunteers helped her with her benefits, getting her ‘right to remain’ and helped her with her housing. She is also much more confident: she volunteers for Foodbank, has started an Alpha course and is now a big part of the community there.
She came to the Foodbank because she needed the food, however it’s all the other stuff that has made the real, life changing difference.
And if that wasn’t enough evidence here’s a piece of feedback we received from another person visiting the Foodbank:
“It’s been awful the last few months ‘getting by’ so I am so, so thankful you cannot believe how grateful we are to receive such essential items.
It means so much more than just food: it’s a restful few nights sleep, mental stability, and just generally being able to not worry/dread mealtimes.”
It really is so much more than just a food parcel.