Tales from the food bank (57)

by Rick Johansen
Back to life, back to realityBack to life, back to realityBack to life, back to realityBack to the here and now, yeah.
Not my words, but those of Jazzie B, the founder of popular beat combo outfit Soul II Soul, taken from his song Back To Life. This was the first food bank of 2024 and while on the face of it nothing had changed since 2023, or last week as we call it, we resumed reality by crashing back to Earth. Right from the outset, we knew something was different. And I am not going to lie: I was a little shocked by it.
If you are tired of reading my digs at those one-off Christmas collections, co-ordinated by caring and compassionate people who every year make a big effort to ensure that those who have the least can enjoy some form of Christmas, then look away now. Because, I say reaching into my Bumper Book of Clichés, food poverty is not just for Christmas and for the food banks in the big city of Melchester things are back to square one. In fact, we may be on minus squares. The Christmas collections and hampers are important, but for the other 51 weeks, then what?
I arrived to see a big sign on the door which said if callers arrived without having been referred we would not be able to help them because we are at full capacity. We may even be beyond full capacity because we are missing a large number of items and now instead of providing four or even five days of food, the most we can now issue is three days’ worth. that’s official policy. Food bank use is at an all time high in what I think we can all acknowledge is our Broken Britain but now society’s safety net, which is often us, can’t catch everyone who is falling. Indeed, we had to turn some people away because there just isn’t enough to go round.
Working at the food bank is now near the top of my priorities. I’m not a great person, nor the martyr I jest about being. I’m not better than most people and a lot worse than many. It’s just something I feel passionate about and I think I can make a difference in people’s lives, in the same way as the kind people who make donations to us.
Maybe every New Year starts like this, with compassion stuffed back in the loft with the Christmas decorations? I doubt it, actually. It’s just that when real life starts again after Christmas, we concentrate on putting bread on the table and getting through these dank, dark, damp days before spring lifts us up. And as the cost of living crisis just carries on, even those of us who thought we were doing fine suddenly find that actually we need to make cutbacks, too.
Without you, dear reader, there would be no reason for me to volunteer at the Melchester food bank every Thursday because there would be nothing to give to people with no money and no food. In the grand food chain of life, everything you donate makes a difference. And without you, people would literally die of starvation. In the absence of good government, it’s up to all of us.

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