By Miranda Beebe, Head of Volunteer Management
Food banks are truly remarkable at connecting people with a passion to serve others – to come together and challenge injustice across the length and breadth of the UK. Every day in the network, we know thousands of volunteers turn up to stand alongside people experiencing crisis and show them solidarity and friendship.
Today, we want to put the spotlight on Worcester Foodbank, who we noticed had logged 5,500 hours amongst 87 volunteers since February, when they first started using the volunteer management system, Assemble. In reality, the number is far higher as the 5,500 doesn’t account for additional hours for collections, deliveries and staying late after shifts.
The impact of the pandemic
Throughout the pandemic, the food bank has been very busy, particularly in the winter with large volumes of everything – they had to get two additional storage sites in order to manage all the donations coming in. On top of the logistical hurdles, they were operating with just a third of their normal volunteer numbers because of social distancing measures, which also meant they couldn’t take on many new volunteers despite over 100 signing up to help. When reflecting on sheer volume of activity – the warehouses, the increase of deliveries, the running of the food bank – Ruth Allsopp, the Operations Coordinator, spoke about the consistency of the time and support they were able to provide to people in crisis with the help of their volunteers.
Ruth also talked about the frustrations with the pandemic around limiting the amount time they had to meet and chat with people who visited the food bank, either to donate food or receive support. They’re all looking forward to the more social aspects of food bank volunteering.
“We’ll all be happy for a quieter time when we can spend more time with clients again.”
Going above and beyond
“The Team is always coming up with new ways to enhance our service, thinking of ways to make the best use of our donations.”
One example was thinking about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day this year. Having been inspired by seeing toiletry packs and certain non-food items being donated over the Christmas period, volunteers asked if they could make little treat bags to either give to people visiting the food bank as a gift from the food bank or as something people visiting the food bank could give to their own mother or father. The volunteers made notecards, explaining that this was a little extra for them to do with as they wanted and gave out the treat bags weeks in advance of the actual day in order to reach as many people as possible.
The sense of unity and empathy amongst the volunteers at Worcester Foodbank is strong, which the food bank fosters, led by Ruth. There are monthly newsletters for volunteers, emails when there are any policy or operational changes, and 20-minute briefings before each session, three times a week. The briefings are safe spaces for volunteers to raise any issues or questions, as well as sharing stories from people who visited the food bank. Building this sense of community amongst teams means they quickly pick up things from each other, and any changes or learnings are easily passed on.
Worcester Foodbank’s engaging social media accounts are also the result of a dedicated volunteer, who’s a PR and marketing professional by day. Ruth drops the volunteer an email each week on headline items, which are then translated into fresh content. The volunteer has also been key in building the relationship between the food bank and local media.
“Everyone goes above and beyond in what they’re doing.”
To Worcester Foodbank and anyone else empowered by their volunteers, we’re so proud to be supporting you to become places of transformation.
For more information on volunteering, click here.