A day at Coventry Foodbank
Everyone needs a helping hand sometimes, so let’s all show some community spirit
The West Midlands/Warwickshire is a brilliant part of the world.
Our geographical location puts us at the heart of everything. We’re surrounded by gorgeous countryside and market towns. We have some of the best universities in the UK. We’re home to many arts and cultural institutions. We have top-flight cricket, rugby union, football (okay, maybe not the football just now), and many other sports, catering for all ages and every gender.
We’re multi-cultural; my birthplace is a superdiverse city, and the town where I live consists of many ethnicities and faiths plus a vibrant student population.
It sounds like we have it all. And we probably do – apart from a coastline.
The bigger picture
Unfortunately, having it all also includes huge pockets of social and economic deprivation. I know because I grew up in that world.
More than 25% of families live in poverty in the West Midlands – second only to London. Birmingham, a once great manufacturing city, is currently ranked the fifth poorest town or city in England by the Office of National Statistics, with West Bromwich second. And in Coventry, once housing costs are paid, nearly 25,000 children live in poverty.
That’s almost 33%.
It’s hard to believe that we’re one of the wealthiest nations in the world when hard-working people – and people who want to work – can’t afford to buy household staples; food, toiletries, clothes, sanitary products.
Coventry Foodbank – community spirit in action
In such straitened times, it’s good to offer a helping hand, so I was delighted when Coventry Foodbank agreed to put up with me for a day.
Thanks to their hard work, a foodbank is open somewhere in Coventry virtually seven days a week, and last year, this incredible team fed almost 15,800 people.
In addition to a three-day emergency food supply, Coventry Foodbank offers financial advice through its partnership with Citizens Advice, and runs a clothes bank, which is where I spent the day.
A team of amazing volunteers diligently sorts through thousands of donated items each week. Those that don’t make the grade are recycled, while the rest are sorted and stored by age, size, gender, etc. Using these donations, the team puts together emergency clothing packs together with bedding towels, baby packs and toiletries. They also coordinate collection/delivery to ensure recipients receive their donations.
Importantly, they always try to match items to any information they have about the individual in need.
For me, it was a tiring and chilly day; the warehouse needs to be cold to ensure donated food stays fresh. But for people like Dee, Diane, James, Beverley and Tony, this is just what they do every week – spend their lives helping other people.
Food for thought
I spent much of yesterday evening thinking about the people who would soon receive the emergency items I helped put together, wondering who they are and how some of them have ended up completely alone in the world. And why they lack even the most basic essential items.
I hope the items we chose will be useful, and possibly even offer them some hope that life can get better and that people do care.
And I’m looking forward to going back to Coventry Foodbank again soon, if they’ll let me!
As I said at the start, we all need a bit of help sometimes. That’s why we need to look after each other.
And not just during the festive season, but all year round, when we can find the time.
From buying a coffee for that homeless person you regularly walk past, to helping young people read at a local school. Or spending a few hours at one of the UK’s many foodbanks.
After all, isn’t that what community is all about?Tags: