I thought I would try and show some of the progress we have made over the last couple of months. Our food storage warehouse required the most physical labour from our volunteers (and me). The warehouse is, in actual fact, a converted single car garage that we have. This garage had been unused for some time and only was used to store a small number of rarely used gardening tools (even though everyone at the chaplaincy loves gardening). It was perfect for what our foodbank needed to get started. Anyway, below are a few photos, showing the garage being modified and then filled with food. None of this would have been possible of course if it wasn't for all the volunteers who helped build shelves and fill them with food. We hope to have the whole thing full by the time we open in late September. Cheers everyone!
A problem I face when organising volunteers (especially students) is getting in touch with them. The rate at which new generations change their medium of contact keeps getting faster. My grandparents use the telephone, my parents use e-mail, I use Facebook and younger people use one of the new mobile social networks. As time moves on every generation slowly moves down a step (my mum is now on Facebook more than I am). For me, this is a logistical nightmare. The lack of contact between these different means of communication make each generation exist on completely different plains of existence (an overstatement?).
The best way for these different groups to stay in contact is through the old fashioned way of meeting and seeing each other in person. A common goal and purpose also make it far easier for these groups to come together. That is why local community projects, such as our foodbank, are so good at bringing people together. As society seems to get more disconnected, it is important that we double our efforts to hold communities together.
Charities such as ourselves need only be one part of this. The Chaplaincy we are based in is at its essence just a meeting place where people run into each other without planning to. What I find so amazing about our Chaplaincy is the mixture of different generations with each other throughout the year. The Holy Name church is made up mostly of Students but there is still a sizable amount of older locals who regularly come to Mass. They are also welcomed into the Chaplaincy with the same friendly atmosphere given to new students. What makes us comfortable with each other is the knowledge we hold common values.
These common values, from my experience, extend far beyond religious affiliation. Everyone I meet in Manchester have the same values of compassion and goodwill to others. The problem with today's world is that people seem to forget this fact. Pro-active projects like the foodbank will, I hope, have the knock-on effect of encouraging everyone to realise we all have more in common than we thought.
Through my own experience meeting and contacting Governmental services, such as Medical Practices and Jobcentres, I have come into contact with an enormous amount of bureacracy. Usually something I only ever hear right-wing media complaining about, I have experienced how bureacracy prevents the most basic of enquiries from being completed.
Just recently I had attended a local medical practice and the struggle I had just handing them a formal letter from ourselves completely tired me out. After many weeks e-mailing various frontline care organisations, I came to realise none of these e-mails had been read or passed to those they were intended for. I then moved onto a new method of calling these organisations directly and more often than not asked to repeat the previous step. At medical practices, as one example, the receptionists have either told me bluntly that they were not interested, despite only knowing I was from a foodbank, or explained to me in-depth the organisational barriers to them accepting any letter from me. I finally have resorted to just 'dropping in' unannounced, which has proved surprisingly successful in getting in touch with those that we need to contact. However similar reasons stated above continue to get thrown my way.
Something that I have taken from these experiences and how degrading and depressing it can be to be consistently confronted by these barriers. Individuals at the front of these organisations seem more concerned with the process than what they are actually there for, which is helping those in society that are disadvantaged and in need of help. Receptionists and Greeters are the 'frontline' of these frontline services and are the first and last people members of the public will see. It is important that these people realise that and begin to think more about the people who come in to these places for help.
On Saturday, 17th August we had our second ever food drive at the incredibly large Tesco Extra in Gorton, just a five minute drive down the road. This Tesco was so large it had its own cafe, pharmacy, opticians and electronics shop all located in-store. The footfall into the Tesco was therefore incredibly high throughout the whole day. At certain points the four volunteers located in the entrance were unable to help with all the people who wished to donate or learn about our foodbank.
Large stores like this are a great way for us to gain large amounts of food as well as spread awareness to the largest amount of people. Throughout the day we had three people who were interested in volunteering (and have since e-mailed us) as well as local social workers who wished to pass information about us on to their local organisations. This showed to me that food drives are not just about collecting food, but also about raising awareness about what foodbanks are and the reasons for they are needed.
In addition, the days are also a great way for all the volunteers for the Manchester Central Foodbank to come together to help out in a single event. One of the best ways that help motivate me when volunteering is when I'm doing it with like-minded people, all united by a common set of Christian values. Charity and volunteer work in the community is the greatest way any of us can express our faith. Faith in Action is Charity!
The Manchester Central Foodbank will not be a success without co-operation in the local community. The Trussell Trust is a christian charity but makes very clear that they serve people of all faith groups and beliefs or none. The charity is based on the belief that everyone has the right to have food on their plate, dignity, skills, a chance to work and hope for the future.
Our local area in Manchester is incredibly diverse and is home to may different faith groups. The foodbank can only be successful through co-operation with this diverse community. The common goal of the foodbank, helping those in food poverty, is something everyone can get behind.
As we are setting up our Foodbank it is clear what a great potential there is for building up Civic Society. Different institutions, religious and secular, can become involved in either as food-collection areas, or as referral agencies. The Trussel Trust who we are registered with, run the largest network of foodbanks in the UK are a Christian Charity but realise that 'food poverty' is not limited to one religion or another, and similarly that it is working with different faith groups tha provides the best and most trusted network.
Their vision is based on words of Jesus as recorded the Gospel of Matthew. 'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Matthew 25:35-36. This comes from a vision of a last judgement, when we will all be accountable for our actions, particularly to those who are most vulnerable and needy. We show our love through actions more than words..... So get involved, we need 1) prayers 2) volunteers and 3) money. Contact us through this blog - or privately through @foodbank_muscc.
Fr T B SJ
As so often happens with these things we have our second food drive only two weeks after our very first one. This one will be on Saturday 17th August and will at the Tesco Extra in Gorton (Hyde Road, M18 8LD). Everyone who helped out at the Asda food drive, including myself, learnt a lot about what works and what doesn't while asking members of the public to donate food.
One of the major things that I noticed was that many people did not need encouragement and were far more generous than I expected. For me, this shows that there are far more charitable people out there than many have led me to believe. Today, where there are so many competing charities for many worthy causes, I am very happy our local community based effort seems to draw so much attention and generosity.
For our next food drive we will of course need another team of enthusiastic volunteers. I know many will return but some are unable to make this next date. If anyone wishes to contribute, you only need to give one or two hours on the 17th to help out. If you are interested please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Saturday the Manchester Central foodbank had its first food drive at a local Asda Superstore in Longsight. The collection was very successful and we were able to collect over 350kg of food!
I would like to say a big thank you to all the volunteers who participated and helped make it such a success. The volunteers spent there time handing out flyers to members of the general public. These flyers encouraged them to buy an item of food for us during their shop. In addition the volunteers were on hand to answer any questions that people had regarding the foodbank.
I was amazed at the generosity of the many people who donated food to us. Some people gave us up to 5 shopping bags full of food! 90% of all food given out by Trussell Trust foodbanks is donated by the general public which highlights the importance these donations have. It of course doesn't matter whether a person donates one item or ten, as all the food donated will play a part in helping feed local people in crisis.
Our next food collection day will be on the 17th August at the Tesco Extra Store in Gorton and anyone who is interested in helping out is more than welcome.
The most important aspect of our Foodbank is our relationship with a wide variety of 'referral agencies'. These agencies include local charities, government services and community associations.
Clients who come to us for food come with a voucher that is authorised by one of these agencies. We at the Foodbank do not take it upon ourselves to identify those in need of food. Instead we leave that decision to established organisations who deal with our clients on a day to day basis. It is these agencies that are best placed to make the call as to who needs to be referred.
One local agency we are a building a relationship with is the Cornerstone Day Centre. This centre provides support for vulnerable adults in the community. They are open every day and are acutely aware of the difficulties many people face with just being able to feed themselves. We hope our partnership with them will help further the community effort to helping those in need.