Volunteering @ the Edinburgh Food Project

On January 5th, a small Pathfinder team spent the day helping out in one of the Edinburgh Food Project’s warehouses.
Wrapped up and cosy, and surrounded by several tonnes of food that was donated in the run up to Christmas, our task was to date, stack and sort the spill-over stock which hadn’t been reached over the holidays. Before we started, the Operations Manager, Bethany, shared how the warehouse was organised, and gave an insight into how they make a real difference.
The Edinburgh Food Project provides three days’ nutritionally balanced emergency food and support to local people who are referred to them in crisis. Partner agencies such as the NHS, citizens advice and social workers can refer people by giving them foodbank vouchers, which are limited to 3 per a six month period. Each voucher provides a support pack containing 3 days-worth of 3 meals. These support packs vary depending on who they are intended for – and so a range of packs are put together including for individuals, those with access only to a kettle, couples, small families and large families. There are 8 locations where food can be collected, so the reach of the project is right across Edinburgh ensuring that support is as accessible as possible.
Figures from last year show that 1 in 5 people are living below the poverty line in the UK. 2017 was the Edinburgh Food Project’s busiest year ever, with a 32% increase in referrals to their services and with distribution of supplies helping over 9,000 men, women and children living in poverty. To get a sense of the scale of this, consider that the Trussell Trust (the UK network of foodbanks which supports the Edinburgh Food project) handed out 586,907 three-day supplies between April and September last year alone.
By 4pm our little team of five had conquered a few sizeable crates of food – sifting out what was unsuitable for distribution and methodically organising and storing the rest where we could find the space in the already packed warehouse. Christmas is a time of generosity and this definitely seemed reflected in the immense levels of stock and of course, there was still plenty left for the next set of volunteers due in on Monday morning. While this is a great start to the year, the reality is that almost all of this food will be used before early March. Bethany is already strategising about how she can best manage this situation and ensure that there’s enough food to support local people in crisis throughout the year.

The good news is that there are many ways you can get involved:

  • Donate Food –  make sure your donations are unopened, in date and don’t contain any alcohol. Remember… by March, those stock levels will be running low, and people will continue to need the foodbank services and support.
  • Collect – rent, office active, coordination, transportation and distribution of several tonnes of food doesn’t come without some financial costs, so raising cash to support the team will help keep things running smoothly.
  • Volunteer your time – the Edinburgh Foodbank is supported almost entirely by volunteers. If you give your time you might also date and organise donations, but there are many activities which you could be asked to do – from collecting donations directly from stores to putting together the food boxes that go directly to people in crisis.
  • Increase your awareness – take a look at the Edinburgh Food Project website at where you will find information on how to help combat poverty and hunger across the UK, and keep an eye out for any urgent appeals.
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