My view as a volunteer
Volunteering at The New Forest Food Bank. A friend contacted me to establish if the New Forest food bank, known as New Forest Basics Bank (NFBB) is still open. He had heard so many cannot remain so because of staffing problems.
Despite working fulltime, I nonetheless volunteer and offer my time on a weekly basis to assist. I thought I would write a few words on the challenges the charity is currently facing.
Just to be clear, the NFBB is open. Based in Lymington, it’s in an independent food bank covering an approximate 10-mile radius including neighbouring towns and villages in the New Forest.
Pockets of Poverty
Despite the belief that we are a rocking, wealthy and well to do area, there are many pockets of poverty or borderline poverty in and surrounding Lymington and this has been worsened by the current Covid-19 and social distancing issues we find ourselves facing as a nation.
Like all of us, the charity is affected on various fronts with Covid-19. The volunteers tend to be older and less tech savvy and have themselves underlying health conditions. We are lucky with a flood of fresh recruits. But we must all keep our distance and for the new volunteers learning the systems we employ has become a task in itself.
Food supplies stop
The food sources did initially stop. We receive regular donations from churches in our community but with these closed, the supply of donated food initially reduced to a trickle.
Added to which, supermarkets have now stopped bulk purchasing, so people feel less able to stop and place anything in our basket. When you can only buy 2 of anything yet want to give, your choices are very stark.
When the Job Centre, local GP surgeries and schools too effectively closed. Initially this meant we did not receive referrals for food in the number we would like. We have however addressed this problem.
As a charity we were asked to supply meals to just under 1000 vulnerable children in a local school due to its closure. Not an easy task. We’re an all-volunteer charity that opens only 6 hours a week in normal circumstances.
And finally, our existing cabin is simply too small to be able to upscale to any degree. So in the midst of all this national crisis, we have had to find temporary accommodation. And speed up our already actioned move to new premises.
The local supermarkets, in particular, I give a shout out to Waitrose, Morrisons and Tesco, have been incredibly generous and understanding. We have key lines of access. This has meant food supplies have been directed towards the charity at amazing and regular speed.
We have regularly contacted the referral agencies. Schools, surgeries, CAB and job centres all maintain referrals to new and existing clients. We have thought laterally about contacting people who may, for the first time, find themselves in new and difficult financial situations. All of the NFBB understand they would benefit from the provision of a food parcel.
We are coping and, despite the strain, we are providing more food parcels than ever.
A food parcel is a range of tinned and packet items. This also includes, yes, loo roll and toiletries and provides the recipient(s) food for a week. Where possible, we cater for cats and dogs.
We are receiving donations in lieu of food supplies from individuals, businesses and other charities. People are fantastic.
If you live in the New Forest/Lymington area and know of anyone who needs our help, then please refer them through to the Facebook page of NFBB. The CAB is still referring individuals and families to us and they are available on 0300 330 9009.
If you need food bank help or know of someone who needs help, call on 01590 610008 for more info or visit the website: www.basicsbank.org.uk.