Trussell Trust heroes: Meet the volunteers behind one of the UK’s leading food banks - ahead of Christmas 2022
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All across the United Kingdom, especially in the build up to Christmas, families are more desperate than ever due to the cost of living crisis. Inflation, energy bills and weekly groceries are at record highs as individuals face the desperate choice of heating or eating.
That is where Trussell Trust comes in. As one of the country’s leading food bank networks with more than 1,300 centres across the UK, thousands of dependants, and a tireless workforce of over 40,000 volunteers who act as an important safety net for those struggling.
Though due to rising operational costs, as well as surging demand for food banks, Trussell Trust needs support itself to continue fighting the good fight. That’s why National World has partnered with the charity as it campaigns to raise funds to keep food banks going this winter.
With the help of the partnership between National World and Trussell Trust, people like Lowri Williams can continue to get the support they so desperately need. Ms Williams, 59, is a self-employed single mother and food bank user, who found herself out of a job, penniless, and forced to remove her daughter Millie from private school.
She told National World: “There was a time when Millie would pass a food bank trolley in a supermarket and not know what it was. The food bank I used had a table with little luxuries like nail varnish on and the volunteers would ask you to take something, it really made a difference!”
Lowri no longer depends on food banks to support her and daughter Millie but she knows all too well just how important the help and support offered by the Trussell Trust will be to so many people this Christmas.
A vital cog in the Trussell Trust machine that pushes it forward are the tens of thousands of Food Bank Friends - the name given to volunteers - that work tirelessly from one end of the year to the next to feed families. Between April and September alone, they were responsible for providing nearly 1.3 million emergency food parcels - and almost half-a-million of those went to children.
Meet Trussell Trust’s Food Bank Friends volunteers
Trussell Trust’s long term goal is to achieve a future that no longer requires emergency food, a UK where its people can afford to get by, but right now that is not possible. That is where its volunteers take the limelight - but little did you know that the volunteers have experienced some hardship themselves. Let’s meet some!
- Age: 38
- From: Warrington
Ben Pennell is a Trussell Trust food bank volunteer who first came to Trussell Trust as a service user. Less than 18 months ago, Ben entered rehab for a fourth time to cope with his drug and alcohol addiction and had to live in supported living accommodation in Warrington once he left the treatment centre.
The 38-year-old remembers how helpful the volunteers at Trussell Trust were when he was left no choice but to use the support of the food banks. He explains: “Walking in for the first time was daunting, but the staff were amazing and very welcoming!”
Ben is now a volunteer at the Trussell Trust food bank centre in Warrington and helps out there for up to 30 hours a week. He says that volunteering has helped him be a better son to his mother, as well as ensuring he is always there for his own son.
Ben says: “We want to help people, there is no stigma or prejudice. Places like ours are essential, they give people hope, we are here to help and want to - there is no shame in reaching out. As a single person I’m just managing on social security now, but with everything going up it’s not easy.
“Never in a million years did I think I would have to use a food bank or that a food bank would change my life like it has. I have been given a second chance.”
- Age: 44
- From: Fulham
Ex-security man Steve Huxford has not been the same since he suffered a bad back injury 13 years-ago. Unable to work over the course of four months, his pay was halved, and after forcing himself back he was diagnosed with fibromyalgia - a chronic pain condition.
As a way to self-medicate the pain, Steve took to binge drinking which subsequently led to him losing his job. Left in a state of desperation, it was his retired nurse mother who persuaded him to visit a food bank for support.
Steve explains: “It felt embarrassing to need to ask for food, which is a basic need. It might even have been as strong an emotion as humiliation as I suffered badly with anxiety so if anyone found out then I thought it would be the end of the world! In reality, I was greeted by some friendly volunteers; I was struck by how lovely all the team were and that there wasn’t any judgement but compassion and empathy. I had a great respect for the food bank. It made me realise that I wanted to make that kind of difference to others too.”
Steve helps out at the Trussell Trust centre near Fulham by assisting at the cafe where he met a number of dependents and fellow volunteers. His passion for volunteering at the food bank is to not just ensure people receive food, but to make sure people “get all the support they need.”
- Age: 34
- From: Somerset
John had an incredibly tough childhood, starting off in care at a very young age and once he left he was offered no support and was forced into homelessness. Following a spiral where he grew dependent on alcohol and drugs, he went into rehab.
Once he left the treatment centre, the 34 year-old could not afford basic necessities to survive and was subsequently forced to ask for support from a food bank. John admits that it was a “scary thing” to take that step but says it was an “amazing experience” that was “full of kindness” and “no judgement”.
John now volunteers at a Trussell Trust food bank centre in Somerset and has become one of its trustees. He sees it as a way to give back to his local community and wants to help lots of people.
He urges anyone who desperately needs the support of food banks to visit one and get all the help and support they could ever need. Or that maybe you might just want a quick chat over a brew or too, which John says he more than welcomes.
“I would say to anyone who is reluctant to come forward ‘go for it’. We are here waiting and wanting to help you. We do all we can to make you feel at ease and welcome and we understand because, in many cases, we have been there,” said John.
"Sometimes people just want a cup of tea and a chat, we are here for that, too. The recovery journey I have been on has been great."
How to donate to the National World and Trussell Trust campaign
With one in five people visiting a food bank coming from a working household, hunger is an issue that can touch all of us. There is no doubt we are all feeling the pinch, but we are hoping that during the coming weeks you can spare whatever you can to The Trussell Trust winter appeal.
Across our family of news brands, we aim to raise as much money as we can to support this vital charity this winter. The money raised will go directly to food banks to ensure that anyone who needs a helping hand this winter gets it.
Your money will be the difference between a family in your community eating, or a family in your community going hungry. That is how important this appeal is.