Welcome to this the first blog from the newly independent Salisbury Foodbank!
Every year at this time we read “A Christmas Carol”. Close to the beginning two “gentlemen of goodwill” visit Scrooge asking for help to feed the poor. Scrooge sends them packing “it’s not my business. It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s”
Well, two centuries later, the need for this kind of help has not changed.
This has been the most extraordinary year for the Foodbank, with record levels of food coming in and record quantities going out too, from us and from other places in the city. Our volunteers have packed and distributed thousands of boxes of food, helping many over 5000 people – and the busiest time of the year is now with us.
Who do we help?
People sometimes speak as if there were a typical food bank client. But no two cases are the same. It could be anyone who comes to us: it could be you and it could be me. People come for a myriad of different reasons: debt, divorce, bereavement, abuse, addiction, health issues, problems with the benefit system, even those in full time work can be at breaking point with furlough schemes or insecure zero hours jobs. All these things can lead to people in Salisbury seeking our help.
We try to provide more than just food. Food cannot be the long-term answer. We try to understand what prompts those who come to us for food help, and what we can do to help them address these underlying causes – establishing those links is a key part of what we do. Above all else, it is our guiding principle that everyone who comes to us is met with dignity, and respect, and is provided not just with food but with hope
Throughout 2020 we have done all this against a background of constant flux. Our usual arrangements of distribution through food centres at St Paul’s, Bemerton, and Amesbury Foodbank centres has been disrupted, and we have had to improvise. We have also worked with other new and temporary organisations distributing food or other help – we welcome this very much, and as some of these temporary organisations are now being wound down we are expanding our own efforts to pick up the slack.
We now approach Christmas itself: the best of times, and for some the worst of times. We are ready to cope with a record demand for our services, and we are also arranging special events: we are packing over 250 special “Christmas boxes” with seasonal food, and we hope to distribute hundreds of these to families in the run up to Christmas Day. We are also working with our favourite Father Christmas, giving up to 80 children the opportunity to meet and receive gift which have been supplied by our community. To support this, Tesco have committed their “community reserve funds” to help us buy £750 more gifts. They will also supply and deliver fresh food hampers to 50 of our most vulnerable families on Christmas Eve.
Who knows what 2021 might bring?
At the time of writing, it seems there are glimmers of hope that eventually things might be back to some kind of normal, but before that happens things look likely to get even worse. And the repercussions of 2020 will remain with us, and leaving a legacy of destitution. People whose temporary benefits are withdrawn, who can no longer meet their mortgage payments, or have suffered mental health problems, people who enter a post-Covid world which they do not recognise. Whatever happens, we must be ready.
All this at a time when the Foodbank is itself going through changes. While we remain under the Trussell Trust’s broad umbrella, we have moved away from their direct control. The Foodbank is now an independent charity, operated by a Board of Trustees, all of whom are based in and around Salisbury. We are Janet Abbott, Jacqui Cheetham, Peter Horwood, Chas Kimber, Jo King, Sally Osment, John Pitt-Brooke, and Janet Thirkell. You will see our details here Meet the Trustees – Salisbury Foodbank. I imagine that many of you will know at least one of us. I hope we can bring a deep knowledge of how things are in Salisbury and the surrounding area and a passion for the Foodbank and what it is trying to do. It is a huge challenge and we look forward to it. We are certainly fortunate that we are continuing to work with Maria Stevenson and Mate Szeverenyi who run the foodbank day to day, and of course with our team of volunteers.
But this change means that whereas in the past our costs were met from Trussell Trust funds, we are now responsible for finding our own money. All of our costs – staff salaries, premises, transport, overheads – have to come from money we raise ourselves. Which is why fundraising is vital. Click here to Donate
That brings us back to A Christmas Carol.
Scrooge was very dismissive of those collecting for charity at the beginning of the story, but at the end he makes good. He meets the fundraisers once again and “whispers a sum of money in his ear”. “Lord bless me” cried the gentleman as if his breath were gone “My dear Mr Scrooge! Are you serious!” “If you please” says Scrooge “not a farthing less”
Well, those wishing to give us a farthing or two need only look at our website to find out how, and we hope they will do this. Thank you for your interest and support – we shall keep you in touch with our work in the year ahead.
On behalf of the trustees, staff, and volunteers at the foodbank, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas
Chairman of Trustees