I recently visited the Leicester South Food Bank to meet Bruce Harrison, the foodbank’s operational manager. And absolutely fascinating it was too.
My meeting with Bruce started as he hurried through the door having just come from a meeting with a vulnerable elderly lady in the community. Post introductions, Bruce led us to the sorting and packaging area of the foodbank in which volunteers were hard at work preparing and sealing boxes ready to be delivered around the area.
I asked how many people this specific foodbank would provide relief to, to which Bruce gave two answers; between April 2019 to March 2020, the foodbank had supplied 5,163 people with food however between April 2020 and July 2020, the same foodbank had already fed over 6,500 people. The financial outcomes of this increased demand were similarly profound. The monthly budget of the foodbank in 2019 was £250 to be spent on topping up on produce required after donated produce had been boxed. Since April 2020, the Leicester South foodbank has already required £3,000 extra funding to meet the increased demand. The pressures of Coronavirus are being felt but the continued drive of Bruce and his team is admirable.
Bruce explained that as well as providing relief to those struggling with putting food on the table, the foodbank also aimed to provide more long-lasting support networks. These vital networks aid people to establish or regain a sense of financial and domestic stability. Bruce also explained the importance of building relationships with those in need. Once a line of trust is established between the vulnerable person and the charity workers, those in need are more likely to open up and be more agreeable to being pointed in the direction of available charities and helplines to help them. Bruce perceptively stated that this process is not a quick one and that it takes time to build up this level of trust.
I believe that both the Police and Crime Commissioner's office and foodbanks appreciate the need for poverty relief as a way of maintaining and promoting social stability and individual well-being - although they may come at the issue from rather different directions. As a result, I wholly appreciate the benevolence and value of charitable organisations such as the Leicester South foodbank.
Those who work with such organisations, those like Bruce, are so vital to a cohesive and philanthropic state and their work should not only be copiously recognised but given the ability and resources to continue and grow.