For the month of July, we decided to use our monthly donation budget to purchase a vans’ worth of food and toiletries for our local Trussell Trust Food Bank. Wishing to benefit as many people living below the poverty line as possible, donating to a food bank was the obvious choice.
We know and have experienced that anyone can find themselves in a position of crisis for a number of different reasons. Donating to a local food bank can make a difference to a lot of people, and ensures that no one in the local community – especially children – have to go hungry.
Prior to our big shop, we contacted South Trafford Food Bank to find out what type of foodstuffs they were lacking. We were instructed to call John Lambie, one of the handful of warehouse organisers based at Timperley Methodist Church. He told us that once the food is dropped off, it is weighed, sorted by sell-by-date and stored into crates and shelves ready for it to be organised into parcels when the clients pick it up.
The food is distributed among all South Trafford Food Bank locations and dropped off to whichever centre needs it most; St Francis Church in Sale Moor, Sale West Community Centre, St Albans Church Road in Altrincham, The Fuse ROC Centre in Partington, and Timperley Methodist Church itself.
What do food banks need?
We did a little bit of digging online about what items food banks welcome and tend to be in short stock of, as well as what service users themselves would like to see. We found that on many forums a lot of users spoke of lacking in healthy juices and toiletries.
John Lambie confirmed this for us when we called. He told us that at present, the centre was overwhelmed with tinned soup, baked beans, tinned vegetables, pasta and cereal. We were glad we called beforehand, as these are the go-to items people tend to donate.
Instead, he told us that they are perennially short of non-perishable UHT fruit juices, rice, toiletries – including sanitary products, dental care, toilet roll and general hygiene products – as well as ‘treats.’ He told us that the centre always wishes to treat its users with dignity, and treats are often in short supply. He suggested tinned fruits, chocolate, crisps, rice puddings and custard. Again, we wouldn’t have necessarily bought these items without this knowledge, so we recommend all those wishing to donate do call the centre beforehand.
He also informed us, thanks to one generous lady, that the food bank always has enough UHT milk stocked, so there was no need to purchase this. So off we went.
The big shop
Our nearest supermarket is Aldi, which we would always recommend using when buying things in bulk. The food and toiletries are of great quality, often better than the ‘basics’ or ‘value’ range of other supermarkets which can be in unappetising plain packaging, and the low price means your budget goes further and helps more people in need.
Aiming to be organised and buy the same quantity of every product soon became impossible. Instead, it was more of a supermarket sweep with many other customers looking bemused at why we would need so many nappies in a range of sizes. Creche owners? Parents of ten children?
We did roughly buy ten or more of everything, unless (like tinned items) they were in handy cardboard crates, in which case we pulled them from the shelf and stacked them. Packing the trolley with items suggested by John, we stacked boxes of tinned fruits; pineapples, peaches and pears, as well as custard, rice, pasta sauces, multi-pack crisps, child-suitable chocolates, dried couscous, squash, instant noodles and jarred baby food. For toiletries, we filled a trolley’s worth of toothbrushes, toothpaste, a range of sanitary products, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, toilet roll and baby wipes.
The cashier welcomed us to the till with a huge grimace and assured us it was the biggest shop she’d ever had. She even instructed us not to bother putting it all out on the conveyor belt and buzzed the bell for some help from her colleague. We managed to fill three trollies full of food and toiletries for £245.49 and stuffed the boot of the 4×4 quite easily.
We then drove – very slowly for fear of spillages – to Timperley Methodist Church and helped John and other members of the team transport everything from the boot of the car to the warehouse in trollies and crates.
There, I was told that the food would first be weighed and then sorted by sell-by-date. They said that they find the public to be generous in general, but there are always certain items they lack in. To our delight, John assured us that not one item donated would go to waste.
Much more organised than the likes of us, the volunteers at the food bank sort all non-perishable goods into parcels as needed. Able to cater to special dietary requirements and age-appropriate, suitable quantities for children, the food bank will adapt the parcel according to the number of adults and children on the voucher.
The parcels created for each referred family/individual aims to include three-days’ worth of nutritionally balanced emergency food, as well as toiletries. They typically include cereals, soup, pasta, rice, pasta sauce, tinned beans, tinned vegetables, tinned meat/fish, tinned fruit, tea/coffee, biscuits, snacks and sugar. Any additional items for babies may be given where necessary – and we are glad we called to ask about this, as they do not accept baby formula but are in need of baby food.
How to support a food bank
Relying on the goodwill and support of the public, most Trussell Trust food banks function in the same way, so the ways you can lend a hand remain the same (or similar) throughout the country.
- Donate food – as 90% of all food distributed by Trussell Trust is donated by the general public, food donations are vital to the ongoing deliverance of balanced and nutritious meals. To find out the days, times and locations to drop off non-perishable foods and toiletries, as well as finding out which particular items each bank has a shortage of, visit The Trussell Trust website.
Trafford South Food Bank is open for donations at Timperley Methodist Church, Mon, Weds & Fri 10am-12 noon, as well as the café at the Methodist Church on Barrington Road, Altrincham, Mon-Sat 10am-2pm & Thurs 4pm-5.45pm (Mon-Fri during school term-time only).
- Volunteer – you can help volunteer in the warehouse, or at the food bank centre itself. The first role would involve helping with the weighing, sorting and storing before it is made into parcels. Working at the food centre would include meeting some of the foodbank’s users and handing out food parcels. This would allow you to have an informal chat with clients over a brew, discuss their situation and help you gain an insight into the vital work of the Trussell Trust country-wide.
- Donate money – by donating to a food bank, you will allow the operation of the centres to continue. Monetary donations can help with a range of things; from stocking up on food and toiletries, to ensuring warehouses are in working order and equipped with the right tools to function. If you’d like to donate to the Trafford South Food Bank, you can do so by clicking the link at the bottom of the page.
There are also many opportunities for businesses to support their local food banks, from team-building days to organising food collections in an office block. Dial2Donate are currently in talks with Trafford South Food Banks about organising a day for us to drop in and help to give out food parcels, so be sure to read back about our experience. You can also read more about how your company can make a practical difference by clicking here.
How to use a food bank
Most Trussell Trust banks work with local agencies who are able to refer you to a food bank if they feel it will help your current circumstances. If they find you need some support, they will issue you with a foodbank voucher. Agencies include children’s centres, social services, some charities such as Citizens Advice, housing support officers and health visitors.
Trafford South Food Bank works using the same voucher referral system. If you require help, you can obtain a voucher from one of the following Trafford blueSCI Wellbeing Centres:
- Broomwood Community Wellbeing Centre, Mainwood Road, Timperley, WA15 7JU
- Coppice Library and Wellbeing Centre, Coppice Avenue, Sale, M33 4ND
- Old Trafford Wellbeing Centre, 54-56 Seymour Grove, Old Trafford, Manchester, M16 0LN
- Partington Library and Wellbeing Centre, Central Road, Partington, M31 4FY
- Sale Moor Community Partnership, 359 Norris Road, Sale, M33 2UP
When you visit the agency, they will ask you for some basic details in order to identify the cause of your crisis and offer some practical, long-term practical guidance. Where appropriate, the agency will then supply you with a foodbank voucher which you can exchange for a minimum of three days of emergency food at your local centre. To find a list of local centres and opening times, click here.
Don’t struggle alone
We know for some that the prospect of walking through a food bank door can be a daunting, difficult experience. Beforehand, many feel they will lose a sense of pride. But you don’t have to struggle alone.
You can rest assured that the trained volunteers at every centre will welcome you with compassionate, kind, open arms and have a chat with you about your situation. There to offer non-judgemental guidance and support, they are able to point you in the right direction to receiving the right help that will help you break out of your individual crisis.
In addition, volunteers will be able to discuss any dietary requirements or allergies you have; from vegetarian to nut-free, to halal, to gluten-free – so do not hesitate to let them know. They wish to ensure that your three days of emergency food completely meets your needs, and will offer you a warm drink and a biscuit while you wait for your parcel to be packed. Parcels are packed into usual supermarket plastic bags, but don’t hesitate to bring your own if you prefer.
If you wish to discuss your situation with the foodbank, who can then put you in touch with the relevant agency, you can contact them by calling 07749 378447 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.