The year that was - food bank reflects on 12 months since the pandemic hit

A volunteer at Sid Valley Food Bank packing a bag

A volunteer at Sid Valley Food Bank packing a bag - Credit: Sid Valley Food Bank

Sid Valley Food Bank coordinator Chris Chapman looks back on the challenges and successes of a year since the Covid-19 pandemic hit. 

When the first lockdown began, the Food Bank lost 90% of its volunteers who were over 70 or who had health conditions and had been instructed to isolate at home. At the same time demand for the Food Bank increased by more than double in the early months of Covid reaching a peak in May before beginning to decrease again. Many of these clients were new to this situation and had never needed help before.

The graph shows the number of food parcels per year since 2014. (based on monthly averages.) It was already increasing annually from 2016, but the pandemic caused the biggest increase so far.

As a result a huge recruitment campaign was undertaken and 50 new volunteers joined us. Originally the food parcels were delivered to all clients, but after the first lockdown some clients were able to collect from us by appointment.

Not only did we have an amazing response from new volunteers, some of whom were furloughed and had time to help, but the local community was extremely supportive. We received food donations from local businesses, hotels, supermarkets and well-wishers, cash donations from fundraisers and access to grants specifically community support during Covid.

Thanks to all the support we became well-stocked and able to continue to provide for the larger numbers of clients, which continued until recent months. It can take courage to ask for help when you have never needed it before and many of our clients tell me they are reluctant to take the help offered until they became desperate. It can be a choice between paying the bills or eating.

During lockdown we managed to move to a new location better suited to our needs. We are also keen to support people by signposting them to other help. Current and previous food bank clients can now attend a support session on Tuesday mornings between 10 and 12 at the Youth Centre.

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This Covid-secure session is run by Angie Carney, Community Development Manager for the Salvation Army. We are hoping to set up direct access to CAB and energy advisors soon, initially online.

Client numbers have decreased recently, and it is felt that the extended furlough deadline is helping hold back further redundancies at present. However we have the capacity to provide more food parcels when needed.

If you are in a financial crisis and cannot afford food, by accepting for help you are not “taking away food from someone else” as some people believe. Our message to anyone who needs food but feels anxious about asking-do take up the help on offer to get you through the crisis. Find out more about how to get help at https://www.sidvalleyfoodbank.org.uk/get-help/

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