Volunteer focus: how our volunteers support food banks with specialist skills

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Did you know, there are over 300 different types of volunteering roles available at the Trussell Trust and across our network?  Sarah, who is deaf, volunteers at Southend Foodbank, and has taken on a number of specialist volunteering roles within the food bank. 

She explained that her disability doesn’t stop her from volunteering, and told us about some of the technology she uses to communicate. 

“I use a range of different pieces of technology, which gives me live-time transcriptions on a screen. If someone is very softly spoken, or if there is a lot of background noise for example at a supermarket collection, or there’s bad acoustics, the technology can struggle to pick up on what is being said, but generally it is not a problem.”


Sarah has been volunteering at the food bank since 2018. She’s self-employed and is able to be flexible with her shifts to offer support when it’s needed.  

“I can work around my day job to support the food bank however they need, sometimes this might be in the warehouse or in a centre or helping on various committees. At the moment, I volunteer two or three days a week, but some weeks it is less and other times it’s more.”


Specialist volunteering 

Soon after starting, Sarah put her experience in fundraising and writing grant applications to good use. She helped set up the food bank’s fundraising committee and was involved in other projects including events and PR. She’s also part of the team involved in helping develop the food bank’s strategic plans for the future. 

“Natasha, our Project Manager, is very keen to ensure that people’s skills and talents are used in the best possible way to make the most of their volunteering time and we have a number of specialist volunteers, all helping and working together for a greater goal.”


Fundraising and awareness raising 

Sarah has a background in public health and has worked on health promotions and social epidemiology. This has given her a great understanding of issues around poverty and, that fundraising and awareness- raising are intrinsically linked, and both are essential to help change minds in the community. 

“Southend Foodbank is ever so inclusive, and we work so well as a team helping out wherever there is a need. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience across the volunteers who are all passionate about doing their bit and are a totally amazing team of people. I feel very honoured to be able to work alongside them.”



Sarah has been involved in campaigns to help raise funds and awareness for the food bank, which includes a couple of bike cleaning events – through linking up with a local bike shop; a jigsaw themed Harvest collection, where schools were asked to donate items that made up a meal and a food collection at Southend FC as part of the wider ‘Fans Supporting Foodbanks’ campaign, which raised 600kg of food and £2750 in donations across the season. 

In order to reach out to their local government decision makers, the team recently invited local councillors to attend an event at the warehouse as part of Challenge Poverty Week. 


Looking to the future 

“I would like to think, that every food bank approaches what they do, with as much sincerity and love as we do in Southend. It is the people here that makes it so special, some have volunteered from the first day we opened, while others drop in and out when they have time, but everybody involved brings something and is valued for what they bring.”

“At Southend Foodbank, we genuinely believe we can make a difference. Not only to the people we meet today, but wholeheartedly believe that the work we do as a team can make a lasting impact and make a difference. We look at poverty honestly and with that honesty; hope to help to change things for the better.”