Ealing Foodbank during the Pandemic

Sue Garland from Kingsdown describes how the Ealing Foodbank is working during the pandemic.

I wondered if you might like some information about the Ealing Foodbank which I know many Kingsdown people support. Some of you may have received an update from the Foodbank itself just before Easter, however here is an account based on my own experiences continuing to volunteer over the past few weeks.

Because of the covid-19 shutdown, the Foodbank has had to alter its operations and all the usual church-based café/distribution points around the borough have been closed. Instead everything is happening at the warehouse at St Mellitus in Hanwell. Janet, the manager, and Hillary, who is responsible for the warehouse, did an amazing job quickly adapting procedures and the warehouse layout to accommodate the new ways of working. Some of the regular volunteers have had to stand down for the present because of age, health conditions or caring responsibilities but there is still a large pool of people able to help who are being organised on rotas with only a limited number of people on site at any one time to make it easier to keep apart from each other. On average most volunteers are on the rota once or possibly twice a week. All of us have been supplied with an official letter provided by the Trussell Trust explaining that we are Foodbank volunteers and therefore permitted in accordance with the government regulations to be travelling to and from the warehouse site in case we were stopped en route.

The warehouse is open six days a week, five mornings for distributions to clients and one full day, Weds, for in-coming deliveries. Clients who attend in person first come to the front entrance to provide their referral vouchers and details for input into the Foodbank’s computer system, whereupon they are given a numbered ticket, and then collect their bags of food and other items from the car park entrance. Both entrances have large tables across them to make sure that clients and volunteers are kept appropriately distant. Regretably it’s no longer possible to go through the pick-list with each client as we used to in the cafes so they had some degree of choice, although clients are asked whether or not they eat meat (including pork or not) and if they have any allergies which need to be taken into account. The volunteers then collect into bags the appropriate types and quantities of the various standard items (depending on household size), with different volunteers responsible for adding certain specific requirements such as nappies and baby products. Another volunteer weighs the bags and then they are carried outside to the table, the relevant ticket number called and, after the volunteer has retreated, the client comes forward to pick them up.

When there are any lulls in demand from in-person clients, the volunteers pack bags for home deliveries which are being done twice a week by Ealing Community Transport volunteers. The consignments waiting to be collected for delivery are stored in the church vestry as there isn’t space in the warehouse itself.

On Wednesdays deliveries arrive of the donations from the collecting bins at supermarkets and from individuals and other sources which are weighed in, sorted and shelved by the volunteers. People continue to be very generous and the Foodbank has reasonable stocks of quite a lot of items although the turn-over is pretty rapid. There are shortages of some things – on Tuesday this week when I was last there we had run out of peanut butter and potatoes (tinned and dried). The previous week we were getting low on tomato sauce and mayonnaise. Items always needed include UHT milk (semi-skimmed or whole), long-life fruit juice and squash, 500g bags of long-grain rice, tinned or cartons of custard and rice pudding, tinned pulses (e.g. chickpeas or kidney beans, not baked beans, please), jam, sweet and savoury biscuits. It’s also possible, of course, to donate financially to the Foodbank via their website.

I hope you have found the above account of interest.