by Sara Spillett
Last week I was invited to the foodbank warehouse, situated in St Margaret’s Church, Barcombe Avenue. Norwood and Brixton Foodbank operate out of here, having moved in the last 6 months, and the scale of the operation is much bigger than I thought. (Waterloo are also operating out of this site, plus goods are stored for other local foodbanks.)
The foodbanks get no external support and rely completely on donations of goods and cash (they still have rent to cover). With Covid-19 restrictions in place they are operating at 400% more than they did a year ago and have risen to the challenge and made big changes to their working practices to keep everyone safe.
For the volunteers, there is a one-way system in place, social distancing needs to be observed and the hand sanitising stations are very much in evidence. There is one team working on receiving and stacking donations, one taking requests for food, and another picking and packing the food parcels.
Also, how they distribute has changed. No longer can those in need of assistance drop in with their voucher – it is all done online or on the phone, and yet another team of volunteers then deliver the parcels to the doors of those in need.
It is labour-intensive. Many of their volunteers were older and have had to stay at home and shield, but a new source of staff, younger and sometimes furloughed from their jobs, have stepped in to fill the gap. They are always looking for volunteers, no prior knowledge necessary.
The scale of the operation is staggering, the professionalism of a mostly volunteer-run organisation was impressive. In a developed country where many more are living in food poverty it is alarming to see how needed this charity is. As a church it is part of our mission to help those who are marginalised by poverty and hunger.
In the words of Matthew’s Gospel:
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me […]’ (Matthew 25.34,35)
I urge those who can afford to to keep on supporting them. Soon you will be able once again to donate goods via the church, or find more information here on how you can support them.
A prayer for foodbanks
help us to see clearly in this time of fast-paced change,
to see our inter-dependence on one another,
to see one another’s courage, resilience and creativity,
to see one another’s sorrows, fragility and humanity.
Remind us that these reflect your image.
Help us to respond to suffering and poverty as they unfold,
to discern how to grieve, to comfort and to connect,
to discern in what ways to give, encourage or serve,
to discern where our task is to tell our story,
to influence or to give others space to play their parts.
Remind us that this reflects your wisdom.
Help us to acknowledge the injustices made manifest by this crisis,
to meet them with a thirst for justice,
to meet them with an awareness of grace,
to meet them with a commitment to change.
Remind us that this reflects your heart.
Help us to see the hope dawning even in the darkness,
to nurture empathy,
to reject greed,
to embrace compassion.
Remind us that this reflects your love.