Morecambe’s first foodbank volunteer speaks out

Morecambe Bay Foodbank's longest serving volunteer Sara Severn.
Morecambe Bay Foodbank's longest serving volunteer Sara Severn.
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The longest-serving volunteer at Morecambe Bay Foodbank says its clients often find it difficult to ask for help.

Sara, who became the first volunteer at the foodbank when it formed in 2012, said there are public misconceptions about people who receive emergency food parcels.

Morecambe Bay Foodbank project manager Annette Smith with volunteers Joe Fisher, Ruth Fisher, Roger Berridge, Tony Ledwidge, Bob Moran, Robin Moran and Jane Berridge in the 'Pick Room' at the foodbank base in the GYM Church on Clarence Street, Morecambe.

Morecambe Bay Foodbank project manager Annette Smith with volunteers Joe Fisher, Ruth Fisher, Roger Berridge, Tony Ledwidge, Bob Moran, Robin Moran and Jane Berridge in the 'Pick Room' at the foodbank base in the GYM Church on Clarence Street, Morecambe.

“People are very proud and find it difficult to ask for help, it’s hard for them to come along and say they can’t afford to feed their family,” she said.

“One young man who came to us, his sick pay had run out. He wasn’t quite fit enough yet to return to work and he’d run out of food. It’s things like that.

“Sometimes people just need a helping hand but not permanently. These aren’t people who are too lazy to get a job, who are drinking and smoking.

“65-70% of our clientel are working people who are not well paid or don’t work many hours.”

Sara began volunteering after meeting Rev Peter Brown from the GYM Church on Clarence Street where the foodbank is based.

“Rev Brown spoke about it at our church in Warton,” she said.

“I’d heard about foodbanks on the news and I wondered if there was one in our area.

“I started at the time of the first big Christmas collection.

“I went to Tesco at Carnforth and took in donations of food from people.”

Run by charity the Trussell Trust, the foodbank started humbly from a small room with a modest number of shelves at the back of the church.

As demand has grown, the amount of food stored in the ‘pick room’ has swelled and there is now a massive amount of cereals, tins, bread and all different kinds of food and drink.

The operation has become a highly organised network of volunteers and supporting schools, businesses, supermarkets and helpers.

In 2014, Sara collected more than a tonne of food herself in her car and today is still heavily involved in supermarket collections.

She praised Annette Smith, foodbank project manager, as its driving force.

“Annette is the most incredible networker.

“If she doesn’t know somebody we finds out how to know them. Have you ever tried saying no to Annette? You can’t. She has so many ideas.”

Sara said working at the foodbank was a natural step for her after spending her working life looking after others.

I used to work in hospitals. Then my son was very sick with cancer. I’d spent so much time in hospitals, I was looking for something else to do.

“I’ve always worked with people. Everybody works very hard here, it’s a great team and I enjoy it very much.”

The Morecambe Bay Foodbank is always on the look out for more volunteers. Contact Annette on 07591 763130

or email info@morecambebay.foodbank.org .

HOW THE FOODBANK WORKS

Food is donated, mainly through supermarket collections from the public.

Volunteers give out a ‘foodbank shopping list’ to shoppers asking them to buy an extra item which is then donated to the foodbank. Schools, churches, businesses and individuals also donate.

Once collected, the food is sorted by volunteers who check that it is in-date, and then pack it into boxes ready to be given to local people in need.

Care professionals such as doctors, health visitors, social workers, Citizens Advice Bureau staff, welfare officers, the police and proabation officers are among those who identify people in crisis and issue them with a foodbank voucher.

Clients then bring their voucher to the foodbank where it can be exchanged for three days supply of emergency food. Volunteers meet clients over a cup of tea or free hot meal and are able to point them to agencies able to solve their longer-term problems.

Morecambe Bay Foodbank also runs a delivery service taking emergency food boxes to clients living in rural areas and those who cannot get to a foodbank.