The Government lockdown to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 came into effect on 23rd March and all of our lives changed that day. Social-isolation and social-distancing began to form part of our every-day conversations and many people retreated to the relative safety of their homes.
At the Foodbank this new reality meant that our daily routines and work practices changed as people in the ‘At Risk’ group were no longer able to volunteer. Cooking meals were put on hold, food-parcels were pre-packed and dispensed quickly to clients, as all aspects of our service were restructured.
Eight weeks later, the restrictions have been eased somewhat by Government, but social distancing appears to be with us for the foreseeable future. The intervening period has seen everyone at Foodbank double their efforts to ensure food-parcel availability for the most vulnerable people in our communities.
All of this against a backdrop of, growth in demand for food parcels and fewer food donations being received as people adjust to social isolation to reduce the spread of Coronavirus. The Foodbank has managed to maintain service delivery, due to the dedication of staff, volunteers and supported by the Charity’s Trustees working diligently to oversee the careful use of our limited resources.
Our staff and volunteers have witnessed a 150% increase for food-parcels in April. It took a staggering 21,330kg of stock from the warehouse to fulfil this demand. Everyone playing their role to ensure the crates were packed, delivered to the Foodbank centres, and then issued to clients with every effort made to minimise the risk of exposure to Covid-19.
All staff and volunteers now wear PPE and everyone entering Foodbank uses hand sanitiser and adheres to social distancing and hygiene practices which are reinforced by notices displayed at each of the Foodbank facilities.
So far, staff and volunteers have adapted to the new processes in foodbank operations with resilience. More people are now being referred to the Foodbank as the economic effects of COVID-19 filter into our poorer communities. Increasingly, people are being referred to us by networks of Family Hubs from across the city. The Life Vineyard Church is our new distribution centre supporting Walker, Byker and the surrounding communities.
To meet this rapid growth in demand, we have received practical support from Newcastle City Council helping us with the administration and transportation of food parcels. The Trussell Trust continue to provide regular updates and guidance on National Policy, which has informed our working practices.
Contingency measures are now in place to help the Foodbank navigate the many challenges it currently faces. We are responding to the unprecedented demands now placed on all aspects of our services. The Foodbank has made a commitment to, buy food stocks which will meet the new demand for food-parcels but is able to do so for a limited time only.
This will be dictated by the resource available to the charity in the coming months. Staff and volunteers remain positive. Whilst missing their old routine and valued friends they continue to deliver a caring service that respects the dignity of people using our service. Until the next update, look after yourselves, be safe and stay healthy.