I arrive an hour before the doors officially open at 10, warmly greeted by the two ladies who run the independent Food Bank in what was the first village I moved to when moving to the countryside from East London. The little side room inside the Parish church we are situated, is bitterly cold and although retired, the ladies are here every Tuesday and Friday without fail.
We chatter together easily although I have not seen the pair for almost a year now. You see, a year prior to this I was here but in different circumstances:
After moving from East London, my husband a qualified carpenter and myself a teacher, we thought it would be easy to find work. However as the weeks dwindled we realised it definitely wasn’t as easy as we thought it was going to be. With no contacts and feeling isolated the debt and bills soon started mounting. I was five months pregnant, with two other young children and felt completely hopeless.
Whenever my life has taken one of its lower turns, I find the need to sit within a church and spend some time with my thoughts and God. I sometimes feel a bit cheeky really, that He must feel I only show my face when I need something or am hurting, sad or angry. Nonetheless there I was having a chat with Him and wondering how I was going to get through the situation in question.
The reverend came to introduce himself and asked if I was OK. I ended up telling him my current situation and he told me of the Food Bank that ran from the church each Tuesday and Friday. I told him I was greatful for the offer but would be fine. Pride can be your own worst enemy at times. After a couple of weeks with no change to our current situation I made the decision to go along. I didn’t know what to expect and was full of anxiety. I needn’t have been as the two ladies who ran the Food Bank welcomed me with such kindness. I broke down and told them my worries as they listened attentively, comforted me and brought me a most welcome cup of tea and plate of biscuits.
After we went through to the stores room which, as they still are today, stocked with basic food items such as tea, coffee, cooking sauces, pasta, rice and store cupboard essentials. Also their were nappies, sanitary items and toiletries. I stood awkwardly whilst the ladies filled some bags full of essentials for me, the whole time them putting me at ease with friendly conversation. I felt so overwhelmed with emotions but the Food Bank ladies constantly reassured me.
When I went home that day the support didn’t just stop there. The ladies kept in contact with me and were able to drop round much-needed items out of the kindness of their own hearts, such as joint of lamb that a neighbour was needing to get rid of. That was one of the nicest roast dinners I had cooked in a long time and I felt truly blessed by the warmth and love I received from the ladies at the Food Bank.
Today I am here to observe the Food Bank behind the scenes. Many donations appear throughout the morning wherever it be a couple of items from a local person in the village, to bigger donations from organisations such as the Scouts. Each donation is welcomed gratefully as we replenish the store cupboards.
Those in need arrive and are treated with the up most respect and sensitivity. The ladies chat with the visitors like old friends making them feel welcome and reassured just as they did with myself. The special bond and relationship between the Food Bank ladies and local community is evident and I feel thankful to be able to witness the work they do from both sides of the doors.
This particular Food Bank opened its doors in July 2016, serving those in need in the community, every Tuesday and Friday from 10am till 12. They also provide soup and a roll on a Tuesday from 12. As they are independently run, the ladies deliver in some cases, where by those in need can not make it to the church for whatever reason. Also every 4th Sunday of the month they run a Tea Time Church for those who are alone and in need to come along and spend a Sunday together with some home comforts.
The ladies selflessness and consideration for their local community astounds me. Also those who donate locally are participating in such a significant way, as it is only with those donations that the Food Banks across our country can run. The ladies have found that long life milk and tinned meat products commonly are the most wanted items but at times they can see low stocks in items such as toiletries and nappies.
I will forever be indebted to the ladies of the Food Bank. I encourage anybody in a similar situation, struggling or finding themselves helpless in terms of finances and support to visit the local Food Banks in your area. A friend I have made through my local Food Bank, who also volunteers in the group I write about in Street Friends, is also an inspiration in her quest to help others living in poverty.
These volunteers are never judgemental and have made a huge difference to my life. As a person who once had a career as a teacher I understand how much pride can be an obstacle in seeking help but I am so glad I approached the Food Bank to help me in a very low point in my life. Not only did they put me in touch with the relevant services in terms of debt relief, they pointed me in the appropriate directions for help with my finances. I urge anybody in a similar situation to look for your nearest source of help and those who would like to donate please do via the Food Bank donation baskets found in most supermarkets.
The Food Bank mentioned above is an independent food Bank but their are other organisations across the UK which can help you find your local Food Bank.
More information on how to find your nearest Food Bank can be found at https://www.trusselltrust.org/get-help/find-a-foodbank/