“Under normal circumstances people would come to us sit down, have a cup of coffee, have a chat while we sort their food out, that chat was about helping them out of their problems, we can’t do that anymore.”
The social distancing measures resulted in millions of families finding themselves in bad situations, forcing the government to action with initiatives such as the job retention scheme and an increase to universal credit but were not enough to prevent increasing numbers of families falling into hardship.
It has been eight weeks since the government imposed social distancing and lockdown measures which has seen the economy take a hit with household incomes plunging across the country, many are turning towards food banks for support.
The lockdown measures has been difficult for food banks in the initial stages due to food shortages and increased demand on supplies.
The Emmanuel House support centre experienced a drastic increase in their demand and at the same time having to drop their number of volunteers by two thirds due to the majority of their volunteers being considered vulnerable.
Project manager Nigel Webster expressed the trouble the support entre had in the initial stages of the pandemic. He says:
“In the initial phases when there was food shortages in shops we knew that some of our collection baskets were being looted.”
” A lot of people were desperate to go into shops but or couldn’t find the food they were looking for.
“The foodbank has a lot of collection points at different supermarkets that were being stolen from.”
“In order to adhere to social distancing guidelines, much of the service we had now has to be given at a distance.”
For Emmanuel house the pandemic has been extremely difficult due to the food shortages that occurred immediately after the pandemic. But for the volunteers at the support centre the positive impact a Ten minute conversation
“Unfortunately when we serve people now we don’t allow people into the church, instead we place a table at the fron entrance and we have give people their food parcel from there.”
“”Under normal circumstances people would come to us sit down, have a cup of coffee, have a chat while we sort their food out, that chat was about helping them out of their problems, we can’t do that anymore.”
For the Grace Church food bank based in Nottingham City centre its been a slightly different experience although demand from people across the entire county has been vast, the local community has been extremely important in keeping the food bank going.
Liv stead senior staff and citizen advisor at Grace Church food bank expressed the severity of their situation which has been weathered due to the support of their local community. She says:
“We are having more people, larger families and from further away.
“Before it would be mainly Stapleford, Chilwell, Sandaicre now people are coming from places like Aspley and Sneinton, people are coming from all over.”
However much like many food banks in the area helping people, for the volunteers, is more than just giving food but it about connecting with the person.
“We support people to move them on from their situation, and that’s what’s missing now because we are now safeguarding ourselves.”
“Instead of people coming and help them face to face we now have referrals either by email or phone.”
“We can’t give out vouchers instead we have a form they fill out if they come regularly and I know their situation but all new people has to be done over the phone.”
But for Grace Church the local community has been a significantly important contributing factor to the food bank maintaining its service in the community.
“We get Stapleford fire service supporting us by making deliveries for us.
“Tesco Toton have always been generous to us and deliver goods to the food bank twice a week and we’ve also had food from Morrisons.”
“Unfortunately the majority of the staff have had to be changed because they are elderly but the local community has been brilliant.
“We’ve had people from the church volunteer, the local chip shop and even students.”
Hope Nottingham, that has many food banks across the city, has taken a different approach and have asked people to prioritize sending money instead of food.
Director of Hope Nottingham explained the reasoning behind this. He said:
“Prior to all this our focus was on people coming to us for support but we haven’t been able to continue that, instead we’ve been delivering food to people.
“All our 15 food banks across Nottingham previously had been giving out service to about 300 people a week in the last few weeks we’ve been giving out food to about 1500 people a week.”
But much like many other food banks in the area food donations have vastly reduced resulting in the foodbanks increasingly becoming more reliant on larger super market chains for support.
“We have had to shift from receiving most of our food donations from people because of social distancing.”
“Instead of food donations we ask people to give us money to stop people leaving their house and to make sure we get more balanced food in stock.”