Tales from the food bank (48)

by Rick Johansen

The good news is that we were very quiet at our food bank today. Sometimes, we are quiet and sometimes we are busy and there’s no obvious reason. Today, we know the reason. Many people have just received a ‘cost of living payment‘ from the government and any immediate crisis has been averted. For one brief moment in time, a government that has in been office since 2010 and has shamefully overseen a catastrophic rise in poverty and destitution, notably among children, has eased, however temporarily, a terrible situation. It proves only one thing: if a government wants to end people’s growing reliance on food banks, it can. For that reason, I don’t mind sitting around twiddling my thumbs because it means less people than usual are going hungry.

I know that our food bank isn’t about me – far from it – but it definitely lifts my spirits, which, if I am being honest, today needed lifting. And that’s because of my fellow food bank volunteers and paid staff, whose dedication to the cause, which is preventing people from starving, is mightily impressive. There’s never any back-biting because we all have each others’ backs, a bit of an all for one, one for all type attitude. There’s even better news, too.

Our donations have gone up dramatically during ‘Harvest’. More of our volunteers have toured schools and spoken at assemblies and there have been donations of almost 7000 kilograms of food.  I know that the ‘Harvest Festival’ is essentially religious nonsense but I suppose the simple fact is that it works. Hardly any of us in our food bank which, need I remind you is based in a church, ‘do’ God but when it comes to feeding people, who cares where the food comes from as long as it comes from somewhere? We don’t do what we do to impress God, that’s for sure.

In October, we gave out 560 emergency food parcels, weighing a total of 13,419 kilos, which supported 1331 people. Everyone who gave us anything should be immensely proud of themselves. I very much doubt whether a single thing got wasted. You made people’s lives better or at worst less miserable. In a country where it feels like nothing works and everything is broken, at least the food banks keep going, even though in an ideal world they wouldn’t exist at all.

We’re doing a three day collection at a large and well known supermarket at the end of the month and I’ve put my name down to volunteer, as many of my colleagues have done for years. Emphasising once more that I wish we did not need to exist, I am nonetheless looking forward to meeting people in person, to tell people what we do, to accept their donations and to tell them they are making an incredible difference to people’s lives. I am a strong believer that most people are good people and I know my strong belief will only be justified.

Finally, my loyal reader will know that I am not entirely impressed with one-off events to help people who are struggling at Christmas. Of course, it’s good that people don’t want to see other people struggling at Christmas, but here’s the thing: food poverty and destitution is not just for Christmas, for some it’s for the whole year. Please, please support those doing Christmas special events but also, if you can, help a little throughout the year. Having said that, food banks are not immune to the pleasures of Christmas so if you want to help them, have a look at what a food bank that isn’t the one I work out needs. If you want to see what your local food bank needs, ask Mr or Ms Google.

You may also like