Volunteering at Trussell Trust - Binley Warehouse.
Across the U.K. the rise in people using food banks has dramatically increased. According to data collected by the Trussell Trust -
"Since 2010 the volume of emergency food packages being distributed has increased from the tens of thousands to the millions"1.
The Trussell Trust is the leading distributor of food donations, operating over 1,200 of the U.K.'s 2000+ food banks. The service operates as a charity - and relies on the joint efforts of paid staff and volunteers to be able to carry out the crucial work.
The Covid-19 pandemic has created problems on a nationwide scale, halting the production and services of most of the public and private sectors. The work carried out by the Trussell Trust and other food banks is recognised as a key service, as without, many vulnerable people will not have access to food supplies. Many factors have caused the service to be put under much stress; for instance, of the 40,000 hours of volunteering that takes place annually within the organisation (2015-16)2, a large percentage is carried out by retired members of the public, which due to Government suggestion have been asked to self-isolate. The next issue comes from the expected rise in demand for the service over the next couple of weeks, and potentially months; with more people living on reduced wages and even losing employment altogether, the need for basic essential supplies will follow in its wake. The final compounded issue caused by the Covid-19 virus is the large amounts of donations from organisations that supply food items; seems ironic - but the donations are often large supplies of snacks and food materials with a short shelf-life coming from supermarkets and shops closing temporarily. This is proving to be exceptionally difficult to sift through and find the essential, and most necessary items such as milk, bread, and tinned goods that make up the bulk of the supply packages that are given to service users.
My morning volunteering shift comprised of 4.5 hours (1.5 hours more than I originally offered) and immediately I felt validated in the work I was doing as well as in the cause of the Trussell Trust as well. After a brief but important talk - respecting the rules of the warehouse, maintaining the social practices of Covid-19 I was set my task... Taking large cages of mixed food donations and sorting these into baskets of similar items; such as soups, milk, snacks, condiments and many more. After a few beginner questions to the veteran volunteer Jonathon (5+ Years!) who patiently dealt with my inquiries:
"Is chicken and lentil soup a soup... Or a meat product?!"
"Are spaghetti hoops pasta?"
And the ever and on-going debate
"Do I put the Jaffa Cakes with the biscuits or the desserts (cakes)?!"
I quickly found my rhythm, a sorting machine, hands flying faster than a BSL interpreter at a rap concert. I could fling food from fruit to french fries, separating tins of tomatoes, tuna to potatoes in an instant!
Yet as quick as I could sort a full cage - another immediately would appear...
This is where you might be able to help, as a short term volunteer to help get these life-saving supplies into the homes of vulnerable people within society.
If you have any questions about the volunteering experience or need reassurance please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Graph and all statistic provided by - https://fullfact.org/economy/how-many-people-use-food-banks/