School staff and pupils within the Exceed cluster of Schools have been collecting food to raise awareness of the work being carried out by food banks. The aim of the project was to raise awareness of those living in poverty, with an emphasis on introducing food banks to families within the local community. The group also hope to encourage more volunteers to assist in the banks themselves.

First-hand Experience

A number of individuals including parents visited the Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank both to donate food, and see how food banks operate. Riffat Rabab, Learning mentor and child protection officer, told Asian Sunday: “It’s a great opportunity to allow children to help those who are less fortunate, and also help those families on the poverty line and in need. During the recent half term there was an urgent need of food parcels for a family. They couldn’t come to collect, so we referred their case to the food bank and they delivered to the family straight away.”

Giving Something Back

Vicky Adams, Horton Park Primary parental involvement worker, added: “We as Exceed, want to give something back.  We asked parents to come not just to donate, but to see how everything works. It all started when we showed the children a video about general poverty in the UK and Bradford. They found it shocking there was so much poverty on their doorstep, especially the fact children in their own school are using the food bank services. We then promoted this to parents as well via coffee mornings and children’s centres. Our parents are very good at donating and we also host fund-raisers. Aside from this, some parents didn’t realise they could accept support.”

How Does It All Work?

Most people know about food banks, but it’s surprising just how many don’t have a clear idea of how they work. The process gets under way when a social worker, school or other service refers a family or individual, as being in urgent need of a food bank. This is not meant to be a long-term solution, but a short-term fix until benefits or other problems are resolved. The service is not for everyone, but only for those in real need.

A Case Study

Frances Atkins, a food co-ordinator at the food bank, told children about how she received a referral from the BRI hospital: “The gentleman had his electricity and gas cut off, as a result of being in hospital for three months. He lived alone and had no family or friends to help. So, the food bank, helped clean his fridge, as it had accumulated rotten food over time. They gave him food parcels, so when he went home after he was discharged from hospital, he had fresh food, gas and electricity, until he was back on his feet again.”

Getting to The Heart of The Matter

As a 69-year-old volunteer, Francis has been helping out at the food bank for more than six years. She explained to us: “The government don’t understand so many people are in desperate need. Difficult times can fall on anyone and food banks are here to help you until you get yourself sorted again. There’s been an increase in people using the service, and I wish our government would do more, instead of leaving it to food banks to help those in need.  If all schools had a food bank collection bin, the food bank can collect once full up, that would help. Also, we are often short of supplies for dog and cat food, as families often can’t afford to feed their pets and they then end up in the streets.  So pet food is helpful. Anything people can give is warmly received and appreciated.”

A Vital Message

“The service is confidential and those using the service wouldn’t be judged that they are struggling,” said Riffat Rabab.  “It’s very tough, even working families need food banks, as they may not have enough to make ends meet. Families have so much going on, they need help to meet the basic needs.”