Much is made of how media and the way news is consumed is changing beyond all recognition. Newspaper sales are declining rapidly, and the number of people watching TV shows on an actual televisions is also falling. From this many people and commentators talk about the rise of digital media and how we should cast aside all these old or traditional media in favour of the new ones. In addition, it seems a binary attitude develops from this debate, where you prefer one over the other, defining yourself in the process.
I do not see traditional media disappearing but merely becoming part of the much larger number of ways in which news and information can be consumed. All these ways have their own advantages and disadvantages. My experience of setting up the foodbank has helped me to realise that traditional media such as Newspapers, Television and Radio, still has a major role to play in raising awareness. It is through traditional media we have gained most recognition and received most contact. Everyone I have spoken to always tells me how they read about the foodbank in the paper or heard it on the radio. The number of people who tell me they heard of us 'first' on twitter or facebook can be counted on one hand.
Traditional media has a reputation of professionalism which means stories and information have more impact on their audiences. Social Media still to many people is seen as a talking shop. The first thing everyone does (or should do) when they see a story on Twitter is to check its authenticity on a 'proper' news website. When the Manchester Central Foodbank is mentioned in the newspaper or on the radio, people seem to register the information in a different way. For the foodbank to raise awareness and to get more individuals and organisations helping us, we have to continue using this type of media. Social Media can only really compliment (at least for the time being) our drive to get more people in the community aware of the work we are doing.
What a hectic 8 weeks!
It has been in the back of mind that I hadn't written a new blog in almost 2 Months. And this is do the very busy start the foodbank has had in the new academic year.
In this time we had a major recruiting drive for new volunteers in fresher's weeks for both the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan. This was followed by a training session for all our new volunteers the week after as well as a lot of work to get the foodbank ready to open. In addition the fact that we are the first student-run foodbank in the UK has attracted a lot of attention in the local media, which proved very helpful in raising awareness of the foodbank and how we can help people. This was all before we were able to officially open our doors to clients!
We have just finished our fifth week of officially being open and this week was also the first week in which we were open for two days. A very large number of agencies and charities who work with those close to food poverty have been constantly getting in touch with us requesting to become referral partners. This has shown that in Manchester there is a very real demand for the service we provide. Since we have opened we have helped give food to 50 people (23 Children and 27 Adults), who have all been referred to us by frontline professionals. Helping this many people means we have distributed 261.9kg of food! All volunteers agree they were surprised at the range of people who have walked through our doors as well as the wide variety of crises we have heard that can cause food poverty. Sadly we foresee the demand to only increase in the months ahead and we are always looking for new volunteers to sign up and help out. (Contact us at email@example.com if you are interested!)
Since opening our doors the work at the foodbank has begun to settle into a more predictable rhythm. Volunteers are now getting a better idea of what they can do and how they can best go about helping those in crisis, but this does not mean we should rest on our laurels. A foodbank is a project uniquely suited to the needs of the local community. This is because of the proximity of the bank itself as well as the flexibility we have with a dedicated team of volunteers who all truly want to help others. We must therefore be on always looking out for new opportunities to better serve those in crisis and the community as a whole. The foodbank is a collaborative effort and the input of every volunteer is equally important to ensuring the foodbank continues to operate successfully.
Anyway, I hope to begin writing these blogs more frequently again so please keep checking if you want to keep up-to-date on what's going on at the foodbank!