What is a good year for a Foodbank?

We had a Trustee’s meeting this morning for Chiltern Foodbank. Many people locally know about Foodbank, are highly supportive it, and very generous in giving to it. Thank you. But a growing number know about Chiltern Foodbank (and the many other Foodbanks across the country) because they have come as a client, with a voucher to collect some food. It is they who will have met some of the amazing people who volunteer at Foodbank. Who will have sat down for a cup of tea and appreciated a skilled, listening and compassionate ear, as well as a carefully selected gift of food to help them through a crisis.

One paradox we are often considering as Trustees is what constitutes success for a Foodbank? What is a good year? 

 We’ve paid the rent, that’s good (thanks to some generous grants and committed fundraising).

We’ve had a Trussell Trust audit (a bit like OFSTED for Foodbanks), and our list of things to improve is short and mostly done already.

We’ve been asked to act as a Trussell Trust Media Centre, so they have confidence that we are on top of things and would be able to help local and national journalists get a real feel for what Foodbanks are up to.

We’ve made the transition to new premises in the town, right opposite the war memorial, and we’ve made loads of progress on making them usable, welcoming and effective.

And our statistics …! Wow, if we were in business we would be happy happy bunnies.

In the period from January to August 2015 we received 700 vouchers at Chiltern Foodbank (we have 5 places you can take a voucher – Chesham, Amersham, Aylesbury, Little Chalfont, Wendover). Or to put it another way, we have given emergency food boxes to 991 adults, and 574 children so far this year. If you like statistics that is a 25% increase in the number of adults helped, and a 95% increase in the number of children fed, since a year ago. 

Part of this increase can be explaind by the opening of a new distribution centre in Aylesbury. But if you take Aylesbury out of the figures, the number of adults we have helped still went up 12% and the number of children by 57%.

So were we cracking open the champagne, celebrating a bumper year and handing out bonuses? Whilst we are incredibly proud of the work of the 100+ volunteers who make Foodbank work (every one a volunteer), and feel privileged to be able to get alongside local people in a crisis, a good year for us would be the year we look at each other and say, ‘Numbers are down. Really down. We need to think about scaling this back. Or, dare we say it, shutting up shop!’

We hope and we pray. But with the welfare cuts still hurting many of the most vulnerable and lowest paid, with the rolling out of Universal Tax Credit later in the autumn, and with many jobs still not paying a real living wage, there are no plans to stand down anytime soon.

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