Christmas seems like a distant memory, and while the holidays are over, there are still thousands in Sheffield reliant on food banks and charitable organisations to put food on the table and keep their homes warm this winter. As we welcome 2022, the team at ShefFood wanted to share this heartfelt message from one of our partner organisations, the S6 Food Bank. Written by their manager Chris Hardy, it’s a message of heartbreak but also hope.

It was the 18th December at 7 in the morning, I had just made my morning coffee when I started crying. It was through despair and relief. The day before we had given out 10 tonnes of food from 3 of our sites and over 20 tonnes in total during the week from our other 7 sites. I always think about how we’re in this position, where we’re heading and what does an increase of 20% look like next year (which unfortunately is our natural growth).

Move to Christmas Eve at 10 in the morning and we’re running a mopping up service to make sure everyone has food for Christmas and New Year. A lady turns up and I recognise the look I’ve seen a thousand times this year; a look of shame and despair of what’s going to happen next, not only today but in the months ahead. She explains that her husband has just been made redundant and Universal Credit has told her it will be 6 weeks (end of January) before the benefits will be in place. The reality, which I didn’t say, was it was more likely to be the end of February at best.

They only have £300 for rent and all their bills so Christmas is out which is hard when they’ve got 3 children. She says this is the first time they’ve used a foodbank and she feels a real shame at being at our door especially on Christmas Eve when she should be with family. I see it in her eyes. I tell her we’re here to support her through their circumstances until they’re on their feet, we’re also able to give her a gift card for Tesco as well as two weeks worth of food and presents for the family to give her the dignity of having at least one day of not having to face into their next eight weeks reality.

I see her relief even if it’s going to be short-lived, I think about my own relief the week before at having enough food to support hundreds of families week in week out and the relentlessness of it throughout the year we’ve just been through and the year ahead.

My relief and hope comes from knowing the community is with us and my deep-seated belief that foodbanks only work when it’s community helping community.

My hope at the foodbank always comes from the community. At this time of goodwill I’m fortunate enough to see this goodwill all year round and the tireless work our communities go to to make sure we have enough food/ money to be able to support all the people we see in their hour of need.

We rely on our communities to do our local Saturday collections on the street in all weather, our students, guides and scout groups, the rotary clubs and other organisations, and businesses who provide both money and volunteers, our churches and people of other faiths. I also love the individual ideas people have to raise both money and awareness whether this is running marathons, being quiet for a few hours or the Quality Street houses – all the ideas bring community together.

As I look forward to the year ahead I feel more hope than despair. Our eleven sites across lots of different communities (soon to be twelve) and all the volunteers who it takes to run these sites week in week out and the amount of love they give to each person who walks through their doors. The thought of having services in each of our sites to help people at the point of need; that each one of our sites can be a focal point and beacon for anyone in need (not only for food) in the community. Also sharing our data with Trussell Trust so we can change policy nationally and give a voice to the people who walk through our doors, and through both of these actions not see a rise in numbers but see them go down.

I would have loved both politicians and everyone who has donated to the foodbank to have seen my experience on Christmas Eve.

Politicians to see the unjustness of over 8 weeks without any money and the look on the lady’s face.

Donors to foodbank, to see the relief on her face as she left with not only food and gifts but hope of a brighter future.

Thank you to everyone!

Chris Hardy

S6 Foodbank Manager

From S6 Foodbank Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/s6foodbank/posts/2288055271337290

The S6 foodbank is are part of a nationwide network of foodbanks, supported by The Trussell Trust, working to combat poverty and hunger across the UK. For more information, visit their website: sheffields6.foodbank.org.uk