Obviously, we at the food bank have faced, along with the rest of the community, challenges that we haven’t experienced before. But we have managed to adapt and have kept the service going throughout the pandemic. In normal times, we would see users of the food bank face to face and would assess both their needs, and their underlying problems. We would then endeavour to put them in contact with agencies that could help address their problems. Typically, we would have five or six volunteers present whenever we were open.
With the onset of the virus we needed to change our practice. So for the foreseeable future we only have two people on duty at anyone time, most are couples. All contact with users are now made over the telephone or by email. We then have volunteer drivers that pick up the food parcels and deliver to the doorsteps of the users. The system has, up until now, worked reasonably well. But we do long to get back to some sort of normality. Although we are succeeding in our main function, ensuring those that are struggling to feed themselves get food, we have always strived to help get users problems addressed. For the time being there’s precious little we can do. And we have had to stand down some excellent volunteers, while we endeavour to continue in a safe environment. Without being too romantic, we miss our fellow volunteers and look forward to a time when the PANTRY family is back together.
As I said it was a new challenge for us. In the early days of the lockdown, as you will probably remember, the nation was gripped with ‘panic buying’. A whole range of essentials were being bought up by households keen to ensure that they had enough to keep them going through the siege. And in fairness, those that were required to ‘self-isolate’ for 13 weeks probably felt they needed a fair amount of stock. With most of the shops, the library and the Arts Centre closed it was difficult for people to donate food to us. And it was getting increasingly difficult to buy food. Stores had a blanket policy of multiple purchases, to prevent hoarding and subsequent shortages. Thankfully, our local Tesco realised that we were a special case and we have managed to continue to access the food that we’ve needed through them. Tesco, although nationally have close links to the Trussell Trust, have always been excellent supporters of PANTRY and I can’t thank them enough. I also happen to believe that they and their staff deserve our thanks for how they have operated through this period.
I have said on numerous occasions how we live in a very generous and caring community and your support over the last three months has only helped confirm that view. From the onset of the crisis we have been inundated with donations and offers of help. You give before we ask! I mentioned earlier the family that is PANTRY but that extended family stretches far beyond the volunteers and deep into all sections of the community.
I’d like to thank a few people and groups for their particular generosity but feel I should start with an apology. We have, as I say been inundated with donations and I know I’m going to miss out an awful lot of people. WE are extremely grateful to all those that have given in these trying times. Apart from food a week doesn’t go by without another few financial donation from residents, £20 here, £20 there a few £100 pound donations and even one £500 donation – you really are incredible and not only does the money help but your support lifts our spirits,
As many of you know, we are an Independent Food Bank, but we are members of IFAN. They are a support agency for independent food banks and their support through this time has been brilliant. They managed to supply us with disinfectant, disposable gloves and hand sanitiser as well as keep us informed. They are in regular conversations with government bodies, campaigning on our behalf and I look forward to working more closely6 with them in the future.
We have recently joined a ‘Fair Share’ scheme where we pau £65 per month and get roughly £750 pounds worth of food. And it is excellent food of a good quality and very varied. It really is helping to keep our shelves full.
In October I will stand down as Chair, it will be 7 years since we started and PANTRY needs new blood. I shall, hopefully stay as a trustee and committee member. But instead of saying ‘I think we should do this’, I’ll be saying ‘Ooh, not sure you should do that’. I’m looking forward to my new role!
A LETTER TO PANTRY
I decided that we needed to pay tribute to all our local NHS and essential Keyworkers living in our Community.
So I set up a GoFundMe page to raise £200 to light Harry’s Tree in the Triangle and to buy a banner. I asked the Community Council if they would support me and Councillor Chris Jones said he would help out.
The community thought it was a great idea and to true form we raised the monies needed within a couple of hours. The donations just kept going up and up and in no time we had raised enough to help our 3 other organisations: Alltwen Community Garden, Panty Food Bank and The NHS Wishlist. I so proud of our community and how they flick together in times of need.
We are incredibly lucky to live in such a wonderful place. Thank you to everyone who helped to achieve this tremendous result.