It’s March 2020 and our local area is in the midst of the Corona Virus restrictions. While the the public is being asked to stay home to help flatten the curve and help the NHS, there’s a group of people doing their best to help the most at-need in our local area.
Wallingford Food Bank have been providing essentials to our community since 2011. Run entirely by volunteers and reliant on direct donations of food from the public, as well as via a donation box in Waitrose, this charity really is a much needed safety net.
We spoke with the Manager of the Food Bank, Jean, who has been running the charity for eight years, about how the current corona virus outbreak has affected them.
Listen to the Interview
How has demand for your services changed, given the current situation we are all facing?
The food bank is really busy at the moment: the problem is getting enough food in, given the restrictions at the moment in the shops. We have been so busy, manic almost.
And you normally rely on private individuals to donate stock – everything from food to sanitary products?
Yes, although there is normally a donation bin in Waitrose – which we had to close at Christmas due to too many donations! Unfortunately that isn’t there at the moment and we are reliant on donations from the public. (Please note, donations can currently be left at the customer service desk)
Are you looking for volunteers at the moment and if people want to donate how would they do that?
We’ve had so many volunteers coming in, unfortunately it’s very difficult to cope with as we are trying to observe the 2m distancing rules. If you would like to volunteer, it may be best to email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (01491 876677) to see how best to help. We’d gladly accept donations – we are based at the Ridgeway Community Church on St Mary’s Street and there’s a car park round the back – any donations can be placed just inside the foyer area and we’ll collect them there.
Authors note : The car park entrance is on Wood Street, opposite the Cattle Market car park.
So if there is someone out there who does get into difficulties and would like some help, how would they get in touch – and is there an area you cover?
We cover a wide area, from Berinsfield out to Watlington, Chalgrove to Woodcote, Goring and Streatley. Although Didcot has it’s own food bank, so we don’t have to cover there! Normally we do offer help through a voucher scheme which is provided by up to 30 organisations. But with the present situation, if someone is desperate, they can ring our telephone number (01491 876677) and we’ll take down their details and we should be able to drop something over.
I’m sure there are people out there who want to donate, so what would you be ideally looking for?
Well anything really! It’s very difficult to get things due to the shop rationing. If someone does have a donation, we are open and have volunteers available on Mondays and Thursdays from about 10:30am, ready for our opening times from 11 to 1, although we’re very busy and probably open a bit longer than usual. Dropping things round from the car park is probably the best way.
I know sanitary products are sometimes offered from food banks – is this something you try to provide?
Yes we do, although that’s much easier to do when we aren’t in this situation, as we have people that come in and can pick what they need. At the moment we’re so busy but I’m not sure that we’re able to supply them – again, it’s something we rely on people to donate, as we don’t buy anything ourselves.
And is the food bin back in Waitrose for donations at the moment?
Unfortunately we’ve had a few issues, but if there are donations in Waitrose, you can hand them to the customer service desk and say it’s for the food bank – they collect everything and trolley it down to us as a supply route!
Thanks to Wallingford Food Bank for all the work they do in our local community. As Jean said, they are grateful for all your support, but any donations given the current situation when demand is also increasing would be very warmly received. We are going to catch up again with them soon to find out more about their amazing work.
Their website is http://www.wallingfordfoodbank.org.uk/ and their normal opening times are 11am – 1pm Mondays and Thursdays at the Ridgeway Community Church, opposite Rides on Air.