Food bank co-ordinator moves on to pastures new

PUBLISHED: 08:00 18 July 2020

Former food bank co-ordinator Andie Milne.  Picture: Andie Milne

Former food bank co-ordinator Andie Milne. Picture: Andie Milne

: Andie Milne

Sid Valley Food Bank has opened its new premises at Sidmouth Youth Centre – and its co-ordinator, who steered it through lockdown, has left to embark on a new project.

Sid Valley Food Bank opens its new premises: town council chairman Ian Barlow cut the ribbon. Picture: Simon BlythSid Valley Food Bank opens its new premises: town council chairman Ian Barlow cut the ribbon. Picture: Simon Blyth

During the months of lockdown, Andie Milne made sure her team of volunteers were able to cope with the huge increase in demand for food supplies, and although she was self-isolating, she continued working from home. Now, with the organisation’s trustees able to take over, Ms Milne is embarking on a new initiative in the food bank’s former premises, the Dissenter Hall.

She and her team plan to start a drop-in café supporting well-being and self-esteem, called Sidmouth Adult-Friendly Environment, or SAFE.

She said: “I come from a mental health background
and I’ve got people who come from employment and motivational backgrounds, and people from counselling backgrounds.

“It’ll be a place for people to come to, if they need help with their CVs, or with the changes they’re going through, or with anxiety over all that’s happening – or someone to just sit and talk to if they’re lonely.

“After lockdown, there were quite a lot of people who realised how isolated they were.”

Having overseen the foodbank during its most challenging time, helping up to 200 people a week at the height of the coronavirus crisis, Ms Milne is looking forward to a less pressured role.

But she has had ‘the most amazing experiences’ since she was ‘roped into’ it two and a half years ago.

When routine donations from supermarkets became inadequate to meet the demand, she had to start actively seeking more donations from the public, which meant overcoming her lack of self-confidence.

“I became a professional beggar,” she said.

“People who know me well know I’m actually quite shy, and I stutter, and it was all that I had to conquer, so many of my fears, to go and talk to a cinema of 300 people and ask them to donate.”

But she found the role hugely rewarding.

She added: “It’s the warmth of the people that needed the help, grateful is the wrong word, but it’s how appreciative they were of the effort people were giving.”


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