All employees at Madano get a pro-bono day to volunteer their time a worthy cause. Michaila and Will from our Energy team chose to support North Enfield Foodbank for their pro-bono day, a charity helping local families and people in need. Donating vital supplies of toothpaste, washing liquid and toothbrushes, we caught up with Michaila and Will to ask them about their experience at the foodbank.

 

What happens at the food bank?

Michaila: North Enfield Foodbank (part of The Trussell Trust) distributes food packages to households who have been referred to them by professionals in the community – such as social workers, teachers, doctors, health visitors and others. It is run by volunteers who work in the stock rooms, at the front desk talking to the clients, or in the packing room where the food packages are put together.

Volunteering at North Enfield Foodbank

 

Who is it run by?

Will: This foodbank is attached to Jubilee Church, which provides its rooms for the foodbank to use. The packing room is also a studio space used by the church at weekends and through the pandemic to record and stream church services. The building also has a debt advisory service and pre-pandemic, a café for clients to sit and wait for their food packages to be complied. Jose, the manager of the foodbank, wants it to become a one-stop shop for people to get help – including benefits advice and so on.

 

What types of people and situations in the community are they helping currently?

Michaila: There is a real mixture of people who use the foodbank. Families on low incomes, single people, and couples, and perhaps most surprisingly, professionals such as nurses who were struggling to buy food. Jose gave us an example of a nurse who had a big bill to pay for their car (which they needed for work) and how it had left little spare money for food.

 

Did anything surprise you about the way the Foodbank operates and why it is needed?

Michaila: When we were there for the day, there was a constant stream of deliveries. A mixture of supermarket surplus food (fresh and longer life) and deliveries from the collection points scattered around Enfield. All of it was sorted and labelled on delivery ready for storing or distributing. It is a truly well-oiled machine.

The stock rooms are carefully organised in types of products – long life such as tins, jars and dried goods, household cleaning and personal care products, and then fresh produce such as meats, fresh fruit, and vegetables. The stock is organised to ensure that the products with the shortest shelf life are distributed first, and then as newer products arrive, it is all rotated, so they don’t waste any food.

 

What impact has the pandemic had on the operation and the people it supports?

Will: The foodbank had a seen a big increase in referrals since March 2020. It adapted to continue operating safely and at the start of the pandemic, donations of food and money increased dramatically. The volunteers noticed that a wider range of people were using the foodbank (see above for example of nurses) and as the country closed down and jobs was furloughed, the need for foodbanks was even more vital.

 

What are the items they most need supply of?

Michaila: Everything apart from pasta and rice! One volunteer told us that she had nightmares about pasta! It is the most donated good, and although very much appreciated, they had enough. We (Madano and Englobe) donated washing liquid for clothes, toothbrushes and toothpastes – over 200 items in total – as these are some of the least donated goods. Often foodbanks have a list of their most wanted goods online – it’s worth looking for if you are planning to donate.

 

As volunteers, what did you actually get up to on the day of your visit?

Will: We spent most of our day coordinating the goods ready for food packages. Our first job was organising hundreds of boxes of donated teabags into date order (another well-donated product – no surprise there!) and then transporting the filled crates to the stockrooms for storage until they were needed. Our second job was sorting crates of condiments into date order for storage or usage.

 

How was it to spend a day doing something so different to a regular day at work?

Michaila: It was a great experience. It is easy to get totally embroiled in your day-to-day work and live in a bubble. Volunteering at the foodbank opened our eyes to the real struggles that some people are living with on a daily basis, and how we shouldn’t take what you eat for granted.

Will: We also went with our new client, Englobe, so it was an excellent opportunity to spend some quality time with them, but also doing something worthwhile.

 

What was the most enjoyable part/moment of the day for you?

Both: Talking with the volunteers and the manager of the foodbank was definitely the highlight. Their passion and drive to improve the lives of others in difficult circumstances was inspiring and how they gave up their time without hesitation. We definitely walked away with realising how lucky we are to have the freedom to buy the food we want, when we need it.

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