After visiting two completely different foodbanks, one in Aston and the other located in Sparkhill, I gained a better image of the structure and running order of the foodbanks and how much support they offered within the community it is located in. Just before I finished I was able to interview the Regional Manager of Trusstell Trust, Anne Danks. She has 50 foodbanks taking place with further 10 in negotiation. The audio version is also available to listen to, as it is to be embeded on the blog shortly.
Anne defines foodbank as “a community project which is run by community resources, buildings, volunteers and the public donate the food. We capitilise on community resources to create a centre where people can come when they are in crisis and where they can get enough food for three days, as well as a chance to talk to somebody, unburden themselves.”
Crises include relationship breakdowns, losing a job, can no longer make ends meet as food and fuel prices gone up. Anne says she is often in contact with people who haven’t eaten properly leading to malnourishment and especially worries about families with children involved.
Each project is entirely individual and unique to itself, and is tailored to the community it sits in. As earlier stated, each foodbank is different. The Aston foodbank, located in the Salvation Army centre, is fairly new and does not have as many clients as the other. The Sparkhill branch is situated within a community which is quite heavily dominated by one race, as 83% of the population within the region is Muslim. Therefore each operate differently and offer different resources and referral centres. Trussell Trust offer branding and advice/support however each foodbank stands alone, and if they fail to adhere to the charities policies, they will withdraw their branding.
Foodbanks look to “fill in gaps” within the community. Despite procedures in place such as only giving out food to people with vouchers, Anne works to listen to people and sometimes will give them advice to go about the right way of getting vouchers whilst providing them enough food to last a couple of days.
“The Bedroom Tax will have the effect as people will be loosing their benefits…and anything that causes people to loose their benefits results in an increase. One of our biggest categories has been is benefit change and benefit delay in terms of why people refer to foodbanks,” says Anne.
Liisa Wiseman, Manager of the Sparkhill foodbank, says her clients have increased from ’10-12 clients a week to 35-42 clients a week. We have served over 300 000 meals this year and this figure is only going to increase however support from the current community is reassuring that we should be able to cope with this increase, and continue to offer our services to as many people who approach us. We can rely on our community.’
She says, ‘we have to be careful that we are not classed as welfare as we hold no links with the government or councils, we are a independent service.’
People due to be affected by the bedroom tax can at least be reassured of the support from members of their community, as opposed to the government, to keep supporting this service of providing meals and emotional support.