Covid-19 reflection

21st July 2020

Have you ever felt lost for words? That’s how I feel when I think about the kindness, compassion and love for the community that I’ve witnessed in our volunteers and supporters. If you’re a new or existing volunteer, supporter, or have helped in any way with the work of the foodbank, thank you. Since the start of lockdown, we’ve had to adapt our services quite rapidly, and at times on a daily basis. Many of our volunteers had to shield themselves, and other guidelines in place meant that many of our supporters who would normally drop off food at our depot weren’t able to do so. This, in addition to the significantly higher number of people needing access to emergency food parcels meant that our stock levels were at an all time low. I had never seen the shelves at our depot so bare, yet we were still able to fulfill every food voucher that was given out by referral agencies.

Throughout my time at foodbank, I’ve always been overwhelmed by the generosity of people. It’s amazing that during such unprecedented times, many think of others in the community, prefer others to themselves, and make financial sacrifices for the benefit of others. This collective generosity is so overwhelming that a man in his early 60s who had worked most of his adult life broke into tears as he received a food parcel because he had lost his job, a mother said she could now go to sleep at night knowing that her children had enough to eat, and a lady in her early 80s with multiple health conditions didn’t have to go hungry for another day. These are some of the many stories of hope we’re all part of. What a privilege to be part of such work that restores hope and dignity!

You’ve no doubt heard of the significant increase the foodbanks have seen nationally. To put things into context, the stats for Middlesbrough between March and June 2020 show an increase of 59% in the number of people needing help with a food parcel compared to the same period last year. Sadly, this trend is highly likely to continue.

Fig. 1 number of people accessing food support during Ma-Jun 2019 and 2020

We know from the statistics, real life stories, and sometimes personal experience that poverty is real, multidimensional, and affects everyone in the community – not just those directly affected by it. It takes more than food to end hunger and food poverty. There are many who find themselves in difficult financial situations, and it’s at such times that I’m thankful that the foodbank exists. However, my ultimate hope is to see a Middlesbrough without the need for foodbanks, but without sounding pessimistic, I don’t believe this will be possible any time soon.

The situation caused by Covid19 has opened the eyes of many to the realities of uncertainty, loneliness, poverty, lack of basic necessities and so much more. We’ve all been affected by it in one way or another and with different levels of severity. The choices we make hereon will determine the shape of our community in the days to come. As ‘normal’ ways of life gradually resume, let us continue serving the most vulnerable in our community in the spirit of generosity, compassion, kindness, and love. And to the unsung heroes – i.e. everyone involved in the work of Middlesbrough Foodbank – I’m speechless and still lost for words for your acts of kindness. My prayer is that the next generations hear of your selfless acts and strive to achieve the same.

Soroush Sadeghzadeh

Project Manager, Middlesbrough Foodbank

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