“We distribute but we can get some free and we give the rest out to the community. We pass homeless people on the way home and give them sandwiches”
While the growing scale of foodbank use is truly shocking, what is less well understood is the extent to which foodbanks are very much a last resort for people in emergency – if people can make do in another way they will.
Foodbanks are, in fact, the tip of a huge iceberg of food and financial insecurity. As this testimony shows, a whole range of groups, such as pantries, kitchens, and food-sharing groups work in communities to offer different types of support that can bridge the gap between getting by or not on a regular basis, without which we would see even greater numbers of foodbank referrals. Communities in the most financially deprived areas are those that provide the most support to other residents, despite drastically reduced support from government over the last decade.
Community is neighbours, friends, and family helping each other out. People who have used foodbanks are community members like everyone else, who help out when they can, just like many others. Our communities and people receiving food support are not helpless – they are resourceful and inventive, in spite of the lack of external support and investment.
“The community’s got a lot . . . the community’s got a pub that does TV dinners on a Tuesday, pay what you feel. Nothing. So anything you want. That’s got us through the pandemic anyway, because I knew that I had dinner sorted . . . and it gets delivered, hot meal and pudding, every week, vegetarian and meat.
I’m a Food Waste Hero so I pick up on a Sunday in town, we all do it, we’re like Mary Poppins with bags of bakery! We distribute but we can get some free and we give the rest out to the community. We pass homeless people on the way home and give them sandwiches. Olio’s a big thing for me. Before I go to a foodbank I try to see if there’s anything on Olio I can make a meal out of . . . I’ll always try and get extra and say [to neighbours] “I’ll give you one from my Olio!” They always see me running around with extra shopping bags!
In about October last year, a food pantry came into our community and, to save the foodbanks for real emergencies, they opened up a little community shop where you get about two bags of shopping for £4. I always try to save £4 for that so that I know that if it's a bad week, I've got that. Rather than having to come to a foodbank and take out of someone who absolutely needs it, who maybe just signed onto Universal Credit or started another job, that’s in a worse situation than what I'm in."
. . . It’s not the stigma of coming here, but I just know there is someone out there that’s just signed on, that’s just lost their job. We’re not in that place yet, we’re not that desperate, let’s do it as a Plan Z.
. . . You are paying something, it’s a very small amount but it is something . . . so therefore you don’t feel like you’re a burden. And that’s what nobody wants to be, is a burden especially in the times that we’re in. And by asking for help sometimes you feel like a burden. But I don’t feel like that, I’m an armadillo really, very tough skin.”
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