In the run up to Christmas, there’s been a lot of talk of food banks in the press and on the television. Although there are quite a few food banks across Birmingham, Gateway’s is slightly different.
Often, heavily pregnant women and women with young children can find it difficult to do the food shop – many don’t have access to a car, so it means carrying everything on the bus. Then, of course, there’s the cost.
Our pregnancy outreach workers, who visit young mums and mums-to-be, can often find out at the last minute that their client is going hungry. Sometimes a POW will make a visit to a new client at 4pm on a Friday and only then find out that she’s going to be hungry over the weekend.
So our food bank is in the office and immediately accessible to POWs for use in an emergency. They’ll put together a couple of meals from whatever’s on the shelves to take back to the client. Often staff will complement this by donating fresh goods – milk, bread, fruit and veg – themselves.
Like most food banks, our shelves are stocked by donations. Most are from our own staff. Some are from staff at other organisations. We also appeal via Facebook and Twitter and are very grateful for donations from friends and members of the public.
Our wish list: not just food
The bulk of donations that we get are non-perishable foodstuffs. These are vital, of course, because they might need to stay on our shelves for more than a few days. When they’re given out, they may have to last a family over a weekend. We are always grateful for cans and cartons of long-life food and drink.
It’s also non-food items we’re desperate for. Our mums-to-be, getting bigger by the day, and new mums, recovering from childbirth, are often short on other essentials.
On our current wish list are:
- Maternity clothes – we’re crying out for these!
- Newborn nappies
- Sanitary towels
- Loo rolls
- All types of toiletries (shampoo, shower gel, toothpaste) and toiletry bags to put them in
We try and make it as easy as possible for people to donate. If someone offers a donation, but can’t get over to our offices in Edgbaston, we will go out and pick it up.
And any donations that Gateway can’t use – for example, the types of toys that need to be safety checked before we can give them away – are sent to Narthex at St John’s Anglican Church in Sparkhill. (Here we should mention what a great partner Narthex is. They run their own food bank so, if we are low on stocks, we will often nip over to them – or even send the client into there to pick up a parcel.)