Following the summer holidays and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, many families in need continue to rely on local foodbanks to provide meals on an ongoing and emergency basis.
As part of QVCUK’s Making a Difference Together initiative to support local communities, we’re shining a spotlight on the work of community foodbanks, with a specific focus on the Knowsley Foodbank, located close to our warehouse and Customer Service Centre in Knowsley, South Liverpool.
We caught up with Simon Cowie, the Chief Operating Officer at the Big Help Group to find out more about foodbanks and the vital projects they run in Knowsley.
Can you tell us about the Knowsley Foodbank and the important work that you do?
Big Help Project was founded in 2011 as Knowsley Foodbank, initially operating out of the back room of a church in Kirkby, and feeding over 700 people in the first 6 months. A decade on, we now operate 10 foodbank centres across 6 days a week throughout the borough of Knowsley. In the 12 months ending in March 2021 we fed over 77000 people.
Very quickly after it started, they realised that some people were accessing the foodbank on a regular basis and sought to find out the reasons for this. Primarily it was due to insufficient funds often from unmanageable personal debt, so Jubilee Debt advice was formed which continues to help clients on an individual basis to liaise with creditors and find solutions to make repayments affordable.
Why are foodbanks so vital to local communities and those in need?
The need for foodbanks has been highlighted over the pandemic but the truth is, regardless of the wealth of a nation, there has and will always be people in need of food support. Often people are thrown into food crisis unexpectedly and sometimes accessing emergency food is a new experience.
More often though people are stuck in a rut with their finances, benefits, addictions, and other life complications which mean that foodbanks are truly a lifeline for them. Our aim is to empower people out of poverty and our strategy is based around additional wrap-around support, which is often needed to begin addressing the underlying issues.
How can we offer help in our local areas?
Help is always needed and there are many ways help can be offered and accepted. Donating food is the first and most obvious one, accepting food from individuals and groups, whether it be community centres, schools, football clubs, work-based or street collections – a food-based support project needs food!
Our foodbanks and food clubs can always benefit from people giving up their personal time to support the community and help keep these services open. Traditional fund-raising events can provide essential funds to keep our projects running and to buy food necessities that may be running low on stock levels. Raising the awareness and profile of our food support schemes is useful too as it means more people knowing about what we offer, where and when we offer it and importantly what is needed to maintain our provision.
Where can someone in need of help go to find support from a local foodbank?
We have developed strong partnerships over the years which include schools, community centres, GP surgeries, CAB, social care workers and Knowsley Borough Council. We have signage outside our foodbanks on the day they are open and we have our own website and social media.
We are part of the Trussell Trust network nationally and have a good network of volunteers and community workers. We also offer an Emergency Food Support Line which clients can access and when they are not close to or have easy access to a foodbank on that day, we will arrange to bring the food to them.
We aim to be non-judgemental and welcome users to our facilities; we hope not to have to see clients again, but we do help them to understand that we are here to help, especially if their problems go beyond the need for food.
We have many mantras and sayings at the Big Help Project. Here are two especially important ones:
“No-one needs to go hungry in Knowsley.”
“We will not pass by on the other side of the road.”
There are so many ways in which we can help, including donating to foodbanks, volunteering and spreading the word. Search online to find your local foodbank and offer support in your neighbourhood today.