On the frontline: a day at a food bank during COVID-19

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A guest blog from our partners Deloitte 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK in March, Hannah Ledwold, a manager in our Risk Analytics practice and Alan Velecky, Senior Manager, Consulting, have been on secondment with the Trussell Trust. The Trussell Trust supports a nationwide network of over 1,200 food banks to provide emergency food to people who can’t afford the essentials, while working towards a future where everyone has enough money.

The Trussell Trust’s mission is to end the need for food banks by supporting people to address the root causes of poverty. Unfortunately, the need for food banks’ services is now greater than ever. They have seen an 81% increase in food parcels provided to people since the coronavirus caused lockdowns and job losses across the UK. Our two secondees have stepped in to help.


Alan’s day

Alan is a Deloitte consultant with a background that includes television direction and leadership assessment, development and coaching. Alan is providing operations support and guidance for the Trussell Trust’s leaders to navigate their new landscape. He shares with us a typical day:

Early Morning

I’ve been asked to join a working group, which monitors food banks which are at risk of having to suspend their service. This is usually due to a loss of volunteers who are having to socially isolate or issues with food supply. I’m supporting Danni, who is the director of operations, with actions that follow on from these meetings. For example, I recently put together a Memorandum of Understanding template, which outlines how food banks and local councils should work together when local councils are temporarily running foodbank services. It was particularly helpful to be able to draw on a Deloitte colleague’s expertise with MOUs to deliver this particular task.

Late morning

Two hours of coaching calls with area managers from different parts of the UK. I am providing coaching for all 22 of the Trussell Trust’s area managers, who have been under a lot of stress and have had to make many changes in an extremely short space of time. These include shifting from a face-to-face collection of food parcels to a delivery model, and working with local agencies who refer people to food banks to do this electronically, rather than in person with a paper voucher.

These coaching sessions provide some additional support and give the area managers the space to reflect on how they’ve coped, as well as think about changes they’d like to make in the future.


The COVID-19 situation has caused people to react and change ways of working, which has meant a change in culture too. The charity has asked me to work with its operations managers to think through which aspects of the changes that have occurred they’d like to embed in the culture, and which aspects they’d want to roll back. In the afternoon I have some calls to plan a workshop to get the operation managers’ feedback and ideas, and I also work on a webinar on wellbeing and resilience that I’ve been asked to put together for food bank managers.


A call with the Operations Director Danni to discuss today’s progress and prioritise activities for the rest of the week. The Trussell Trust has been pleased to have someone from Deloitte assist, and Danni has been particularly keen to draw on my background in leadership development to support her Ops teams at various levels. The team here has been so welcoming and friendly, they are lovely people to work with.  Everyone at the charity has a strong sense of purpose and it is nice to be a part of supporting the Trussell Trust’s work.


Hannah’s Day

Hannah is on-site at Brent Foodbank assisting with logistics and management of volunteers. Brent Foodbank has seen a 300% increase in the need for food parcels in the past few weeks, at the same time as losing many volunteers who have to isolate due to their age. She shares with us what it is like to work there:

Early Morning

Arrive at the food bank and set up for the day, including checking stock, the volunteer rota and emails.

A grocery delivery arrives, couriered by drivers who are supporting us by offering volunteers for collection/delivery work. Between us, the driver and I unload a ton and a half (literally not figuratively, the food bank weighs all food in and out) of pasta sauce, tuna, rice pudding, beans, etc. If you are finding this hard to picture, try imagining 3,750 cans of beans!

This might sound like a lot of food, but we will now receive this quantity every week – it’s one of many donations we receive every day that enables us to continue.

Late morning
Volunteers arrive for the day. Today we have three. We could always use more, but have had to limit numbers to make sure we can all keep our distance from each other in the small warehouse. The volunteers are all new since COVID-19 started so are still getting up to speed with how things work. We weigh stock and move it to be shelved in categories.

Time to answer some emails and calls. I explain to different parties about the e-referral system – now that people cannot receive physical vouchers, everything must be done over the phone or email (not easy for those who can’t afford food and therefore may not have access to devices or wifi).

People referred to the food bank wait outside to receive parcels – the food bank is still open to people twice a week. The next two hours or so are spent checking vouchers and creating parcels and assisting those who have not been able to access a voucher. This often means acting as translator on the phone to agencies like Citizens’ Advice for people that don’t speak enough English to explain basic details – name, address, DOB, reason for crisis, etc.

Need for parcels has tripled in the last three weeks and today we receive 59 vouchers ranging from single people up to a family of seven.


Confirm with volunteer drivers for tomorrow’s scheduled deliveries. Re-stock some shelves, plan the tasks for tomorrow’s volunteers and close down the food bank.

Working at the food bank has opened my eyes to the amount of work the Trussell Trust does to support people who can’t afford food in this country. Food banks rely on the support of local communities to provide vital emergency help to people. To donate or learn more, find your nearest food bank here.