At a time when much of the activities at St Leonard’s Church had to stop due to COVID-19, South Sefton Foodbank remained open as an essential service and has seen an unprecedented increase in the need for food support during the lockdown months.
The Foodbankhas developed new ways of working, including a delivery service and is soon to start a summer lunch club.
The Rev’d Paula Bridson, vicar of St Leonard's Church Bootle and Chair of Trustees for St Leonards Community Centre & South Sefton Foodbank spoke to us about the food bank initiative, seeded by the Trussell Trust, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have 7 distribution centres run by volunteers. Amazingly, we were able to keep the distribution centres open thanks to the commitment of volunteers and staff at St. Leonard's who have had to be redeployed and have taken on new roles. Our debt advice worker has continued to work too, helping many people.”
During the lockdown South Sefton Foodbank saw a great increase in need for food support in the area:
“From the outset we have been really busy, working in close partnership with our 220 agencies and Sefton Council and Sefton CVS.”
The Foodbank has given out an unprecedented amount of food parcels. In March alone, they supported 1600 people.
High numbers continued throughout the months of lockdown and from the 1st April until last week the foodbank fed over 3,000 people.
A delivery service has also been in operation. Paula said, “We have completed over 220 deliveries, thanks to our dedicated staff, volunteers and trustees.”
The Foodbank has paid careful attention to each client that has used the Foodbank. “Every delivery has been followed up with a call to ensure the client had enough food.”
To obtain a food parcel and other help and support from the Foodbank during the COVID-19 lockdown, clients first needed to be registered on the NHS Shielded list. However, volunteers at the Foodbank found many were elderly and unsure of how to negotiate the process to register.
St Leonard’s volunteers helped signpost and register those who were not able to with Sefton Council. They also helped those who were not on the Shielded List but who were self-isolating, ill or could not get out.
“The work was intense and really busy but also rewarding and we have made contact with a lot of hard to reach people who we would not have had contact with before.”
The Foodbank runs primarily on donations from the local community. Paula spoke about the kindness and generosity of those who have donated:
“We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the public with donations of money and food over the past 12 months. This has enabled us to provide fresh fruit, vegetables and bread to go with our parcels.”
For the team at St Leonard’s Church and in the Distribution Centres, Paula said “it has been a time to learn new ways of working to help our local community and how going forward we can meet the challenges ahead of us in the coming months and at the same time offering the same level of care, help and support that we have in the past.”
The Foodbank have risen to the challenge and have developed new projects and ways of working. They are now working with local farms to help ensure that there is more fresh produce available for those who receive their food parcels.
“We have started a new project to ensure even more fruit and veg gets to those in need by gleaning in local farms. Again, many thanks to our volunteers for giving time to glean!”
The project is also providing support for parents and children during the school holidays supporting those who would normally have free school meals. “This summer we are providing lunch Monday-Friday for parents and children, which we hope will be of help during this time.”
Dr. Naomi Maynard, Project Development Lead Officer for Together Liverpool and Network Coordinator of Feeding Liverpool said “It is wonderful to hear how St Leonards and South Sefton foodbank have responded and adapted over the last few months.”
Together Liverpool have been working to develop a new Network of Kindness initiative supporting new and existing projects in Liverpool Diocese to weave more kindness into their provision of support.
Naomi said, “We feel it is important to share and highlight how churches and community groups have been responding to the pandemic.”