Sonically visit the Whitehawk Foodbank

by Ruby Illing

16 November 2022

“I believe we are responsible for our fellow man.”

– Hillery (A foodbank volunteer)

For the past 7 years, Whitehawk Foodbank has been supporting people in crisis with emergency food provision in East Brighton and have raised over £80,000 through the Givey donation platform. Which has allowed them to provide an amazing service for those in need.

They believe that no one should have to turn to a foodbank to access the essentials, and do all they can to work towards a future without the need for foodbanks in East Brighton.

Sonically visit the Whitehawk Foodbank and listen to the powerful voices of volunteers working to help people become self-sufficient and break the cycle of dependence on foodbanks.

Click here to donate to Whitehawk foodbank, 100% of your donation will go towards transforming lives.

Read the transcription and see the photos from the visit

The Givey Community theme tune plays.

Ruby Illing 0:10
Hello, and welcome to the Givey Community, a sonic space for empathy and kindness. I’m Ruby Illing. And in this episode, you can join me on a visit to the Whitehawk Foodbank.

Joe (Manager of the foodbank) 0:31
My name is Joe and I have the privilege of managing whitehawk foodbank, which is in East Brighton. I’ve been doing that since March 2020. But I originally started at the foodbank in November 2019. Doing comps and admin and everything in between, food banks generally tend to have quite small staff teams. So, if you’re involved in a food bank, whether that’s on staff or volunteering, you, kind of, tend to get involved in everything, from social media to packing food parcels, or putting together, like, even things like policy documents and chatting with MPs, and things like that. Like, there’s a whole range of things that are involved with working or volunteering in a food bank.

Caroline (Stockroom volunteer) 1:14
So, but it’s got lots, of lots and lots of space.

Ruby Illing 1:18
So, this is the Foodbank Centre that you use?

Caroline (Stockroom volunteer) 1:21
Yes.

Ruby Illing 1:21
When I arrived, I was greeted by Caroline at St. Cuthman’s Church. And then she took me around the corner to another building to meet the rest of the volunteers.

Sounds of a road with cars driving by and two sets of footsteps walking along it.

Caroline (Stockroom volunteer) 1:32
So we’re walking… It’s basically this building

Ruby Illing 1:34
Okay. We’ve just come from the church.

Caroline (Stockroom volunteer) 1:36
Yes, yes, St Cuthman’s. So, it’s quite a big building, as you see. It used to be a cafe and a nursery school…

It cuts to Joe speaking from a separate interview.

Joe (Manager of the foodbank) 1:47
that was funded by the Sure Start scheme, which, Sure Start scheme disappeared, nursery disappeared. Umm, So, we used to use it for storage, like, back when we first opened, but we would use one little tiny room, whereas, now we use the whole ground floor of the building. So, there’s that visual representation of how food banks have grown in the last 10 years or so.

People come in and register at the church is not overly formal, like register makes it sound really formal. We just fulfilled the like voucher that’s been made for them. And then we will sit with them go through their food order. It gets sent across to the building next door where our team pack it up. And then once it’s ready, they will let us know. And we can tell the client that they can come around and pick up the food parcel from from next door.

Fades back into the scene before of Ruby and Caroline walking. They approach the sound of two men talking

Ruby Illing 2:34
Hello. Hello. What’s your name?

Nick (Stockroom volunteer & client greeter) 2:37
Nick.

Ruby Illing 2:37
Nick, and what are you doing today?

Nick (Stockroom volunteer & client greeter) 2:39
I am greeting the clients at the door.

Caroline (Stockroom volunteer) 2:42
And giving them their food

Nick (Stockroom volunteer & client greeter) 2:43
And giving them their food.

Ruby Illing 2:44
Thank you.

Nick (Stockroom volunteer & client greeter) 2:45
You’re welcome.

Ruby Illing 2:46
We’ll see you on the way back.

Nick (Stockroom volunteer & client greeter) 2:47
Okay.

Sounds of Ruby and Caroline walking into the packing room.

Caroline (Stockroom volunteer) 2:48
What I’ll do is I will go and get the, sorts of, bosses, so that they know, they know you’re all right.

Ruby Illing 2:48
Yeah.

The sounds of Caroline’s footsteps walking away, and two volunteers talking…

Volunteer 1 2:57
That’s the name, I thought, that is how I remember it…

Volunteer 2 3:00
Yeah, yeah…

Volunteer 1 3:02
Hi.

Ruby Illing 3:02
Hello.

More room chatter.

Ruby Illing 3:04
Do you mind if I ask you what you’re doing? And…

Hillery (Volunteer packer) 3:07
What I’m doing?

Ruby Illing 3:08
Yeah.

Hillery (Volunteer packer) 3:08
Yes, umm, this is, these are the charts that we get through from the people requesting food.

Ruby Illing 3:14
Ok.

Hillery (Volunteer packer) 3:15
And so we go around, go around the whole room, fetching what they’ve asked for, and putting them into the bags here. And they will then come to the door there. And we’ll give it to them there… So, this is what we’re doing.

Ruby Illing 3:29
Oh brilliant. What’s your name, by the way?

Hillery (Volunteer packer) 3:31
My name is Hillary.

Ruby Illing 3:32
Hillary…

Fades out and fades into

Hillery (Volunteer packer) 3:36
Well, let’s say I do get satisfaction from doing it. I wouldn’t say that it’s totally selfish in the sense that I feel like I ought to do it. But yeah, I do really feel very pleased that I can help in some way some small way that people who are in trouble in our society, because I believe that we are responsible for our fellow man. I really do so. Yes, so…

Fade out. Fading into the sounds of Ruby walking into the stockroom.

Jamie (Stockroom manager) 4:12
I’m Jamie. I’m the stockroom manager… Well, here we are in the stockroom. And we’re now going to carry out one of the regular stockroom duties, the topping up of the packing area. So, we have identified where there are gaps in the packing area. So let’s go and fill them…

Sounds of walking within the room.

Jamie (Stockroom manager) 4:36
We’re short of potatoes and veg.

Sounds of walking towards the stock and the footsteps stop abruptly.

Jamie (Stockroom manager) 4:41
Yeah, we got potatoes, potatoes.

Ruby Illing 4:44
These are canned potatoes…

The conversation fades between Ruby and Jamie. Fades into Jamie talking from a later conversation.

Jamie (Stockroom manager) 4:45
I’m actually engaging with them. I’m seeing something of the way they live, something of the challenges that they have. Yeah, I think it opened my eyes in a lot of ways, doing this, and there are some social problems out there. I don’t know that I’ve got a personal solution… Well, I haven’t got a macro solution. But I think there’s an element of micro solution, which says that you just get to know people, and you get alongside people.

Sounds of Ruby climbing up the stairs with another volunteer.
The climbing stops.

Ruby Illing 5:25
Yeah this is perfect, thank you.

Fades out, fade into…

Nick (Stockroom volunteer & client greeter) 5:28
Well, I do two days a week here on a Wednesday, I do the restocking. So I go about with a big shopping trolley. And whether there is a need for baked beans, I supply that need for baked beans. Then on the Thursday, I’m on the door, as the clients arrive, greet the clients and then go and find their bags of food, where possible, where they have things in their pack that they don’t can’t eat, or their kids won’t eat, then we’d like to give the personal touch as much as possible. So go and swap it for some Coco Pops, or Yes, whatever the pasta is that the kids like. And it’s basically been a point of contact for the clients when they arrive.

Nick (Stockroom volunteer & client greeter) 6:09
And it’s not officially an advice giving role. But you do end up, kind of, talking to people, people are quite keen, in a lot of cases to open up. And it’s nice to be able to relate to them. I am not a rich man, myself, and you know, services like this increasingly necessary for people. So it’s good to be a part of that. And it’s good to offer a human face to it and give a bit of empathy, really, because people here are not proud of arriving needing food and tampons, and people swallow their pride to arrive. So it’s important to me to be able to offer advice and say yes, I completely understand I have had benefits problems, been sanctioned before I understand what it’s like…

Fades out, fade into…

Joe (Manager of the foodbank) 6:59
I’ve always felt that the shame is felt by the wrong people. That the shame of the situation, in terms of the scale of the need for food banks in our society, unfortunately. You have the situation where a large part of the media casts the shame on people who are experiencing, experiencing poverty and destitution, when the shame, actually, should be on us as a society that has allowed this kind of scale of, of need to be, to be present. And for large scale, emergancy food needs to become a reality.

Fades out, fade into…

Hillery (Volunteer packer) 7:34
The fact that so many people are in need in this day and age. In our society, we’re actually about the fifth most wealthy country in the world. And we have people who have to come to food banks, it’s an absolute disgrace. It really is dreadful. And so anything one can do to help them and redress the balance. That’s it really. So…

Fades out, fade into…

Nick (Stockroom volunteer & client greeter) 7:59
It’s fulfilling for me to be able to sort of go away from here thinking yeah, I genuinely helped that person, like, somebody arrived early today. And you know, I know for a fact, she needs a knee replacement, because of the relationship we’ve sort of built up, over the weeks and months, and she’s having a pretty grim time with her mental health. And I was just talking to her about how she talks to her doctor. And, you know, when she went away with her bags of beans and pasta, I did kind of think, well, that was, I feel good about that, you know.

Nick (Stockroom volunteer & client greeter) 8:30
It’s nice to be able to give them the food, but to be able to help them a little bit and empathise with them, err… you know, a lot of these people… maybe… I don’t know if they see you as somebody they can trust because you’re in that caregiving situation. But I find that people are talking to me, somebody they don’t really know, at all, where they wouldn’t necessarily talk to members of their family. You know, the woman this morning actually said that, you know, I don’t get to talk about things like this to anybody. So, to be just a sounding board for people’s problems, and to be able to relate to some of them as well. I got a lot out of that. Personally. Yeah.

Jamie (Stockroom manager) 9:08
I had one person say. I grew up without a Dad, and you’re the closest I’ve got. That was something that was said to me a couple of weeks ago… And I’m still reeling from it…

Fades out, fade into…

Caroline (Stockroom volunteer) 9:26
They’ve become family and I’ve never met them… I’ve been phoning a couple of ladies that have still got, that I phone every week. And I’ve been phoning them for two years… Citizens advice help them out. And other charities do, but I try and encourage them to have make the next phone call, or you know, press, you know, chase people, moral support, but it’s encouraging them to to progress it further.

Ruby Illing 9:55
Is there anything that you’ve you’ve learned about being here?

Caroline (Stockroom volunteer) 9:59
I’ve learned a lot about the benefits system, or the, you know, the ins and outs of the benefits system. And I’ve learned about mental health and the lack of provision. That slowness of the the PIP applications, the slowness of of people in domestic abuse, just the the whole thing is just grind…

Fades out, fade into…

Nick (Stockroom volunteer & client greeter) 10:28
It’s important that people are signposted to help with the problems that have brought them here in the first place. So they have debt advice there, they have benefits advice, the MP often does his workshop in there. And it just means that people aren’t… it’s not just the sticking plaster of giving them the food and the toothpaste that they need. But hopefully, you know, some of the underlying problems that bring them here in the first place can be addressed. While they’re on the premises. And in a friendly atmosphere.

Nick (Stockroom volunteer & client greeter) 10:55
It’s not something like a council office where you got to queue up and take a ticket, you know, they have a community cafe in there with free fruit and veg and tea and cake. And if people are anxious about… these problems, bring a lot of anxiety, with the money problems. And if you can talk to somebody in a relaxed atmosphere like that, I think that’s all good.

Fades out, fade into…

Joe (Manager of the foodbank) 11:14
Is trying to create, like, a hub within the community, where people aren’t sent from pillar to post around the city to access different avenues of support, they can kind of like come to one place and know that there’s going to be someone there for all sorts of issues.

Pre pandemic we’d run… we’d call it more of a Food Bank Cafe. The reason we wanted to call it community cafe instead was that we noticed that when we’d previously run the cafe, people began to pick up, oh if your going to the church on a Thursday, everyone in the community knows why you’re going there. And it’s because you’re accessing the food bank. And we felt like that kind of stigma potentially was a barrier to people coming along or getting the support that they needed to.

So, we kind of opened it up as a general community cafe that anyone can come to, and just sit and meet with, you know, their neighbours, as well as access, the financial advice or energy support or counselling services, wherever it might be.

Food Banks then become quite a good place to have all these different kind of wraparound support services. Because the things that lead people to food banks is very rarely one thing, there’s often quite a lot of situations going on in someone’s life in the background that contributing towards the need for emergency food.

So hopefully, we’ll get to a point where people can access advice and support before they’re in a position where they need a food bank. But you know, that’s a kind of longer term thing of helping people to feel like they can ask for advice for the debts that they’ve got, you know, before it reaches a crisis point.

Fades out, fade into…

Nick (Stockroom volunteer & client greeter) 12:52
And there are people that we see, you know, week in week out, and then when you don’t see them after a while you think, Oh, that’s a shame, I haven’t seen old, what’s their name, for a while. And then you have to remember, it’s good that we haven’t seen them for a while, because maybe, you know, the short term issues, if that’s what it was, that brought them here in the first place have been resolved.

And the fact that you don’t see them means that they’re doing very much better. It’s always nice to see the people, they’re all very friendly. But it’s kind of nice to see them go as well in a weird way.

Fades out, fade into…

Ruby Illing 13:23
Any any finishing thoughts?

Caroline (Stockroom volunteer) 13:26
I think we’re making progress. That would be my thing, to get them, two of them, not needing to be reliant on the food bank, that would be my, my goal.

Fades out, fade into…

Nick (Stockroom volunteer & client greeter) 13:38
It’s a real shame that we need to have food banks, the fact that there are more food banks in this country than McDonald’s, but all the while there’s a need for them. It’s reassuring and heartening to see how many people are prepared to give their time and effort to help out people who need help. So it’s, you know, it’s a reassuring portrayal of society. Maybe… if you have to pick something good about it, then that would be it. Yeah.

Fades out, fade into…

Joe (Manager of the foodbank) 14:05
So many people are unaware of the situations that people face. We kind of cast these broad generalisations on different communities, different demographics within society, and not enough people actually go into those communities and meet people and get to know their stories. And I think if more people did that, especially more people in positions of authority, or people with decision making responsibilities, then we’d have a much more compassionate society, that sort of, genuinely understands the experiences that, that people have in different situations. Yeah, all around the country.

Fades out, fade into…

Hillery (Volunteer packer) 14:48
I don’t know if you know The Little Prince by Saint-Exupéry. It’s a wonderful book. And he says “It is only with the heart that one sees truly, everything that is important is invisible to the eye.”

Ruby Illing 14:58
Thank you so much.

Hillery (Volunteer packer) 15:06
You’re welcome.

Fades out and fades into…

Joe (Manager of the foodbank) 15:07
We’ve seen throughout the pandemic, like, incredible generosity, and a huge part of that has been through partnering with the Givey platform. I think we’ve seen, like, over £75,000 of donations through the platform, which is like, just amazing.

So, to thank everyone that has donated through that platform. But also, please do get in touch with us, like, we’ve got… we’ll send messages out to people that, that have donated with our contact details and ways that you can stay in contact. And we’d love to, like, let people know about more ways that they can support the Foodbank support our, kind of, broader vision, as well as giving financially, there’s so many other ways that people can support us, so, please do get in contact with us.

Theme tune outro music starts playing.

Ruby Illing 15:48
Thank you for listening to this episode of The Givey Community.

If you would like to donate to Whitehawk Foodbank, the link in the description, and links to follow us on social media are also there.


If you found this article interesting to read, here are a few our other podcast blogs: 
Welcome to The Givey Community Podcast

Reflections on My Emotions Activity Book

Food Meets Mood: The Startling Connection Between Nutrition and Mental Health

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