Food for thought

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Regular updates in Rye News keep us all informed about the amazing team effort at the Rye Food Bank, the constant supply of food donations, and the generosity of a growing group of benefactors, without whom life for so many clients would be so much more difficult than it already is.

But what about the recipients of the food donations, what’s their story? I thought it important to hear first hand how the food bank has made such a positive impact on so many local people and how essential this lifeline has become to them, so I had a telephone interview with two clients, who will remain anonymous.

But their stories highlight the harsh reality so many people experience on a daily basis and I am very grateful to them for allowing me to share their experiences with you.

One of the clients I spoke to was in a desperate situation, being self employed and with work drying up due to the pandemic, and with the delays involved in receiving universal credit, she literally had nothing, no food in the cupboard and nobody to turn to other than a friend who recommended she contact Rye Food Bank.

Biggest hurdle was having to ask

Not having been in this dire situation before, the biggest hurdle was overcoming the embarrassment and possible stigma of having to ask for food and help, but having overcome this through sheer necessity her pride wasn’t dented after all.

She experienced warmth, understanding and empathy, without feeling judged or stigmatised. Help came not just in the form of food and provisions, but gave the opportunity to talk, interact and communicate with people who understood her issues and cared enough to make life so much better.

Food bank stocks

Without the support of the food bank she had no idea what she would have done, health issues impacted on her ability to help herself, and the feeling of sheer desperation was driving her quickly downhill. Thanks to the support she has received and continues to receive, life is worth living once more and support is there for as long as it’s needed.

Another lady I spoke with was forced to approach the food bank as the school vouchers she had been depending on, which provided towards the cost of food shopping, didn’t come through. She had been ill, and coupled with the fact that she has special dietary requirements, she felt scared and anxious about going to the food bank.

Immediately treated with respect

Having gone there, she immediately felt reassured and wanted, treated with respect and empathy. The chance to talk to people who understand and can help, without judgement or categorising.

She immediately felt at ease and found it a real pleasure to go there, not just for vital provisions but for the interaction and conversation. The feeling of shame soon disappeared and she has used the food bank throughout lockdown. She now regards the food bank team as friends.

Her life has improved, so much so that, instead of being a client of the food bank, she now helps to deliver food parcels to those who need help or who are unable (often through poor health conditions) to help themselves or leave home as they have become housebound.

Putting something back into the system by helping the food bank has also given her back her self-respect and a feeling of pride and being part of a team again. For my part, talking to these two clients has opened my eyes as to the desperate situations many people find themselves in, often through no fault of their own, they are purely victims of circumstance.

But lifeline is still essential

I hope that anyone reading this article will now be prompted to help our amazing food bank by continuing to support them with food and financial donations. The foodbank is a growing family of clients, supporters and donors, the following message received today, Tuesday, February 23, typifies the goodwill and strength of feeling for an essential lifeline, appreciated by so many:

“Bob, Ellis and the rest of a splendid team who have helped so many in these most difficult times.  We have finally managed to secure a new start in our journey. Please can you reallocate any provisions that may have been due for delivery to us here tomorrow to others in need as other needs will arise from this difficult time. Thank you all sincerely from the bottom of our hearts once again. God bless 🙏”

It’s a sad indictment that in the 21st century there is a need for food banks at all, but it’s a fact that, without them, many people across the country would not survive, literally.

Image Credits: Clip-art library.com , Mags Ivatts .

4 COMMENTS

  1. A great article which highlights both the tragedy that food banks are vitally necessary in today’s failing society and also the positive impact community support can have on those in need. I note from the RyeFood bank that those in need should contact Citizens advice or HARC – does this mean some kind of referral and/or vouchers are needed to access the service ? How does that part of the process work ?

    • Citizens Advice and Hastings Advice and Representation Centre (https://harcuk.com) provide advice on where to get help and make sure people can access the benefits and services to which they are entitled. They can also provide vouchers/referrals to the Food Bank. As can social workers, schools, churches and GPs.

      But no-one is turned away from the Food Bank. As Nick says: “talk to people who understand and can help, without judgement or categorising.” If you’re in need, come and talk to us; with or without voucher.

  2. Thank you Nick for a beautifully written article. It’s heartbreaking that we currently see between 45 and 50 families every week who, through no fault of their own, are experiencing similar hardship. As you say, there shouldn’t be a need for Food Banks in a wealthy country in the 21st century but unfortunately, there is.

    Thank you also for illustrating the difference the Food Bank makes and for encouraging contributions. These can be made at the Jempsons Foundation website: https://www.jempson-foundation.org/rye-food-bank/.

    Any contribution, no matter how large or small is appreciated and goes directly to helping those in need. Finally, if you are experiencing hardship, please do come and see us at the Food Bank any Wednesday afternoon between 1 and 3pm at the Rye Baptist Church in Cinque Ports Street.

  3. Yes Nick a well written article giving an insight from the clients perspective. It makes you realise how lucky we are but at the same time appreciating that anyone of us can suddenly find ourselves in very difficult times!

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