On Monday March 30th Covid-19 totally changed our way of working from a face to face model where clients collected food to a totally opposite delivery model. This was the Covid effect.
As many of our volunteers are older people it was felt to be best to protect the team from possible infections and continue our service of providing food in a new way.
Two weeks before March 30th we informed all our clients and voucher distributors in writing that a big change was taking place and clients would now receive food delivered to their homes. What we didn’t expect however was the massive increase in demand or the way that outstanding help would be provided to us to complete the deliveries.
As we launched our delivery service the demand grew unbelievably. Schools and agencies were referring lists of people who they considered needed help. Clients calling our advice team had to justify why they needed food and many were turned away because they felt foodbank had simply replaced a supermarket delivery service which had become hard to access. We worked closely with the Council Community hub who helped those with money but who were shielding. We also helped many people understand the NHS system that ensured food was delivered to them by the government. We didn’t count the number of phone calls we received but our phones rang constantly for 13 weeks. Our offices became a very busy call centre and everything else was put on hold as we met the demand.
We quickly ran out of many food items. We had to buy 1,000’s of cardboard boxes and spend a huge amount of money on purchasing food to meet the demand. We were very grateful to everyone who assisted by helping with finance or food donations.
Within a short time of making deliveries we were overwhelmed by the number of deliveries required. Eastbourne Borough Council Neighbourhood First team came to our assistance helped by the 4×4 Assist team. British Gas also provided some of their furloughed staff to help. Each day we often had 6 vans loaded with boxes making deliveries across the town. At the height of the lockdown we were making 530 home deliveries a week and many of the recipients had two boxes of food which increased the volume needing delivery. In total during this period we made 3,600 home deliveries.
The delivery teams were absolutely amazing and it would have been impossible to continue the service we offered without their help. Equally the effort from our warehouse team continuously packing and preparing boxes of food was beyond the call of duty. There was an amazing buzz and real sense of purpose as the teams worked very hard.
An amazing statistic from all of this was that during this 13 week period we provided food for 2,880 children & 4,973 adults – 7,853 in total. In the exact same period in 2019 we provided food for 3,984 people. This shows a huge percentage increase of 97%
Many of our volunteers said that this period of extreme busyness was something they would never forget. They were so proud to know that their huge efforts and contribution really changed people’s lives.
As we reflect on this period we were very pleased that the planning and delivery of the service we offered was spot on. Every part of the plan was executed perfectly by the team and with real enthusiasm. If we have to do it all again we are confident that we could repeat this huge operation.
It will be good to reach a time when Foodbanks aren’t required, because everyone has the necessary income in order to cover basic living costs, but until that time comes the safety net that foodbank provides for so many people is in good shape to deal with the future.
Howard Wardle CEO