Billie is a 17 year old #iwill Ambassador, foodbank volunteer, and advocate against food poverty.
I am a volunteer at my local foodbank, where I have been volunteering with my mum, since I was eight years old. Like all young people at the moment I am spending most of the time self- isolating and keeping up with my studies, but amidst this I remain active as a volunteer with the foodbank.
The RAFT Foundation often has busy periods at different times of the year, such as Christmas and school holidays, but since before the lockdown there has been an influx in incoming communications and requests for help. More surprisingly there has been an influx of offers of help and donations from the community since the lockdown.
What kinds of help have increasingly been offered? Sourcing enough food to include in healthy food parcels is always a challenge; we anticipated this would get much worse especially during the period people were stock piling, followed by stores having to set limits on what people could buy. Despite this, we have seen an amazing determination by donators, existing and new, to help us continue to provide healthy and complete food parcels to neighbours experiencing hard times.
This has included not just food but also essential toiletries, household cleaning items, pet food and nappies. I have seen this first hand, when I accompany my mum to collect donations from stores and then sort through and pack parcels, some of which I help deliver. After late night pick ups from stores, my mum and I sometimes create a few food packages to door step on our way home.
I also help share short-date, fresh items, excess to that day’s requirements, with young homeless people’s hostels, and other food groups. All of this we do practicing social distancing, which includes a new contactless delivery method. My mum calls this the new knock-a-door run!
It has been great to see and be involved with new partnerships developing, including some new store donation points, which helps make up for the fact that regular donation points, schools and churches are shut. I never imagined we would be involved in a chippy tea project with a foodbank and yet as a direct result of Covid-19 we are working with a local chippy to provide up to 90 chippy teas a week, to people who have accessed the foodbank, plus some of our own volunteers currently self-isolating or shielding.
This is a great way to give the important message that underpins everything we do, a message of caring and hope. My mum often says ‘food is important for the body, but good food is important for the soul’.
Loneliness and the risk to mental health is one thing that is a real concern that is regularly highlighted in the up to 200 incoming communications daily, being dealt with by few volunteers. I find it inspiring that local schools, in particular key workers’ children, have been making cards and writing letters with the aim of connecting with the most isolated, providing a message of caring, sharing and hope. We have been working together so that these letters and cards have been included with food parcels going out for delivery, many receiving wonderful feedback.
With the recent holiday, over the last couple of weeks, in spite of everything, over 600 Easter eggs have been carefully homed, between food parcels and door stepping, mostly done by volunteers during their daily exercise period. Despite the difficulties we are all facing at the moment – and some more than others – I am finding hope through being able to continue to help others, it only takes a little extra imagination!