Details are still beginning to emerge about the ongoing economic impact of the coronavirus. Despite the government’s furlough scheme providing a basic income for many, thousands of others have found that they don’t qualify for government support. It’s perhaps therefore no surprise that food banks in some parts of London are reporting that traffic through their doors has tripled since the start of the Covid19 outbreak.
In the London boroughs of Newham and Tower Hamlets, the situation could be even worse. One food bank reported a quadrupling in demand for its services from local residents. There is no doubt that part of the issue is the economic hardship caused by the coronavirus. But according to food bank managers, government policy hasn’t helped either. The promised food vouchers, designed to replace the free school meals scheme, were slow to arrive. There have also been instances of supermarkets refusing to take the government vouchers, or being unable to process them through the tills. In the early days of the outbreak, shortages of food bank staples like pasta, rice or cans of soup resulted in a huge decline in food bank donations.
Many of the larger charities which operate food banks are trying to speed up their process for opening new centres. Very few paid staff work in foodbanks, most of which are staffed by volunteers. Volunteers typically have other responsibilities too, and only help out in food banks part time. Turnover of volunteers is generally fairly high, and food banks need a constant stream of new faces coning through the door to ensure that they can keep pace with demand.
If you are interested in helping out with your local food bank, the best option is to contact them to discuss the role in the first instance. Most charitable organisations will work hard to match the hours you have to volunteer with a suitable role. Volunteering may not mean direct contact with people using the foodbank; all charities will need a range of helpers with administration, or liaising with larger donors to collect bulk shipments of food.
Paperwork and Application
Charities are held to higher levels of scrutiny than other types of organisation and each has their own recruitment policies. As a bare minimum, you’ll be expected to complete an application form and give references to prove you’re an honest individual who is volunteering for the right reasons. Charities also have to conform to the same rules about illegal workers so don’t be surprised if you are asked to bring along a passport as proof of nationality, even if you aren’t expecting to be paid for your work.
It is unlikely that roles in a food bank will need a standard or enhanced DBS Check, as volunteers generally do not go into homes of service users or have one to one contact with vulnerable people. Some volunteers may be asked to apply for a Basic DBS Check. However, many charities are reluctant to do even this basic level of checking due to concerns it deters applicants with minor convictions from applying.