Christmas at the food bank

It’s been a while since I wrote about volunteering at Southampton City Mission’s food bank, and as yesterday was the last time I’ll be there until 2015, it seemed like a good occasion for a round up of what’s been happening recently.

We’ve been lucky to have got a generous donation of advent calendars from our local Sainsbury’s, which have been a nice addition to the food parcels. It was great to see a little girl’s face light up last week when we presented her with a Hello Kitty advent calendar, although her dad did confess she already had one at home! Well, you can never have too many treats around this time of year, and the adults have also been getting festive food as part of their parcel, such as Christmas puddings, Christmas cake, mince pies and variety packs of chocolates. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s lovely to be able to give people something that’s going to make them smile and that they will enjoy eating, as well as the usual food we distribute.

Some of the other volunteers have told me that the run up to Christmas last year got a bit crazy, with people having to queue up to get their food parcel. Monday was pretty busy, and now I’ve started working on the front desk for part of the day, things can get hectic. While I’m on the desk, I have to take calls from referral agencies and anyone else who phones up with a query. Referral agencies usually ask us before issuing a client with a voucher, so that we can check our database to see if the client has been given a food parcel before, and if so, how many. I also have to greet clients when they come in, make sure they get a hot drink if they want one and take down their food preferences, before passing over the voucher to another volunteer to make up the parcel. The information on the paper vouchers then has to be entered on our computer system. All of these tasks are straightforward enough, but trying to keep on top of them simultaneously is a good exercise in multitasking! I’m enjoying finding out more about how the whole system works however, and learning how to deal with problems or unusual cases that come up.

Being Christmas, and with all the media attention food banks have been attracting recently, we’ve had two reporters from local radio stations visiting in the past month. I was sorely tempted to get my five minutes of fame today by agreeing to do an interview, but sensibly referred the guy on to our food bank manager… I’m sure no good would have come out of me trying to spout intelligent sound bites, even if only on local radio!

People can be extremely generous at this time of year, and I know friends who buy the Big Issue, for example, or donate money, or buy charity Christmas cards or presents. It’s wonderful that we are so charitable in the UK and there are no end of good causes to support. As I say goodbye to SCM for 2014 though, what I really hope is that anyone reading this will spare a brief thought on Christmas Day for the many people who sadly aren’t going to be able to have Christmas dinner this year. Those of us who will have full plates and full stomachs don’t always appreciate how lucky we are.

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