January 2020 – a new year, a new decade – and the perfect opportunity for 90TEN to make a commitment to always give its best to others. In this spirit we started the year by volunteering at our local foodbank during one of its busiest weeks.
Wandsworth Foodbank is part of a nationwide network of foodbanks in the UK, supported by The Trussell Trust , working to combat poverty and hunger. Throughout December it received a huge surge in supplies and they needed volunteers to sort through four tonnes of food donated by the local community so that they could offer nutritionally balanced packages to people in crisis. Here’s why four members of our team jumped at the chance to get involved…
Poverty and hunger are still a huge (and growing) issue in the UK and Wandsworth Foodbank is helping more people than ever with emergency food supplies. In fact, between April 2018 and March 2019, they provided 5,770 three-day emergency food supplies to local people referred in crisis – more than any year since it opened and a staggering 78% increase from five years ago. I was excited about the opportunity to volunteer because I find the need for foodbanks in 2020 shocking and unacceptable. A report by Wandsworth Foodbank states that the two top reasons for referral to the foodbank were income not covering essential costs and social security delays or changes – 70% cited the five-week wait for their first social security payment as a reason for referral – which means that people simply do not have enough money to eat over those weeks. In their report, Wandsworth Foodbank has a number of recommendations that address this issue and reduce the need for foodbanks. Having seen first-hand the incredible job that Wandsworth Foodbank is doing in creating a safe and welcoming space for incredibly vulnerable people, I can only hope that these recommendations are being given the attention they deserve. In the meantime, while the numbers continue to rise, I would urge anyone in a position to do so to give what they can in 2020 to support their local service – whether it is time, money or food provisions for people living in poverty.
A few years back I volunteered with Crisis for Christmas at a homeless shelter and it struck me then about how easily someone can fall into poverty and homelessness. Donating to and volunteering at Wandsworth Foodbank allowed me to help people before they reach crisis point – taking away the worry of stretching the weekly income to cover food, as well as the rent and growing bills. Being part of the Wandsworth Foodbank was a huge honour and I was grateful for how welcome and relaxed the core team of volunteers made me feel. I know that this warm welcome is extended to the clients they serve. The team really cares about making people feel worthy and valued. Because of this, my takeaway from the day was always give your best. Yes, I did find some dry spaghetti that was out of date in 2011 and someone had donated some horrid-looking damson preserve that was older than the first episode of Friends – but these sorts of items were few and far between. What I witnessed was people giving their best to people in need and this translates into something much deeper to the receiver. It means that they are worthy. If the damson preserve is not good enough for you, it’s not good enough for those in need either. So give your best donations, as this feeds more than hunger—it feeds the soul and can mean the difference between poverty and homelessness.
Last year I noticed an increase in poverty in London and felt helpless. Apart from handing over spare change when I could, I didn’t feel like I was helping the wider community or contributing to the bigger picture. Volunteering at Wandsworth Foodbank was an opportunity to change this, and as a team we worked together to label, organise and manage the food that was donated and distributed to those that need it most.
Having the opportunity to volunteer at the Wandsworth Foodbank was a real privilege and I’m so thankful for the time we got to spend with their team. It is so easy to get caught up in our day-to-day lives and to take what we have for granted. However, seeing the foodbank in action, the dedication of the regular volunteers, and the power of our community, it was a stark reminder that we must make time to reflect on our privilege and ask ourselves: What can we do to help?
What can we do throughout the year to make sure others have sufficient food? Could you donate food at your supermarket each week? Could you pledge some time to volunteer? Maybe you could donate some spare change to your local foodbank?
It is particularly poignant at the start of a new year ,when we are flooded with expensive diets and meal plans and pricey gym memberships, to consider those who do not have access to even basic nutrition. Could your new year’s resolution include protecting others’ health as well as your own?
If you would like to donate to your local foodbank in the UK or become a volunteer visit The Trussell Trust to find your nearest centre.