One of the things that I hear when people talk about food banks is that ‘they’re just a sticking plaster’. As manager of Salford Foodbank, if people say this to me I usually answer yes and no!
For some attending our foodbank centres, the three-day emergency food parcel we give them will literally be a life-saver whilst for others it will simply help them to get through a difficult period in their lives. We know however that giving out food may only be helping their most immediate needs.
So in one sense, we are providing a sticking plaster and not necessarily answering the underlying issues that people are being referred to the food bank are facing. However, if we have cut our finger and the blood is flowing, surely a plaster is a good thing? It may not be the long term answer but it can be the start of the healing process.
Perhaps the emphasis on saying ‘no’ to this comment is that food banks are ‘just’ as sticking plaster. This is where partnership with other charities and organisations is key. We work with over 120 referral agencies who can give vouchers to local people that are struggling and many of these can offer support, help and guidance that we can’t. Because of this, we like to actively signpost people whenever we can.
Secondly we work very closely with Salford Citizens Advice, Salford Mind and Salford Foundation and have advisors from all these great organisations at our food bank sessions. This means that people coming in for a food parcel can get on the spot help with benefits, housing, debt, finding the best gas/electric suppliers and many other things.
Lastly, as a Trussell Trust foodbank, we wholeheartedly believe in their ‘More than Food’ initiatives. Many food banks across Greater Manchester and the U.K provide services beyond emergency food provision including lunch clubs, cookery lessons and job clubs. At Salford Foodbank, we would love to introduce some of these services but we first need to find a bigger and better building that gives us more space and capacity to do this!.
We will continue giving local people ‘sticking plasters’ for as long as we need to but we will also do all that we can to help peoples wounds completely heal. If you would like to partner with us, why not consider donating financially.
Mark Whittington – Salford Foodbank Manager