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Advent: Foodbanks, Faith and Action

Author: Brenda Ackroyd

Picture: Curtis Gregory Perry, Flickr

Advent: Foodbanks, Faith and Action

As foodbanks prepare for their busiest Christmas to date, Brenda Ackroyd shares her journey of becoming a foodbank coordinator.

I have to admit it was not through any fervent impulse that I joined the foodbank.

The advert was in the church newsletter; I could spare the time. It seemed like a sensible thing to do.

Beneath this decision, though, lay a smouldering fury at the way our society rewarded the rich and penalised the poor – and a guilty awareness that I was very comfortably off, thank you.

Although I had lived with these thoughts for years, they were not a passion that drove me into action.

Yet one thing did.

Five Children, No Food

He seemed an ordinary enough chap, sitting there in his jeans, knees apart in the low chair, cradling in his hands the mug of tea we had given him while he waited for his groceries.

“Five children,” I said. “That’s a lot of mouths to feed.”

Almost dead-pan, he agreed, adding that he had managed well enough on his benefits after the loss of his job – until last week.

I had to ask. “What happened last week?”

He had gone to sign on, he told me, as he did every week, and everything was normal until the person dealing with him suddenly announced that he had missed his interview.

“What interview?” he had asked.

“No one told me I had an interview.”

But she was adamant. It was down in her records that he had been offered an interview and he had failed to attend.

His benefits would be sanctioned for twelve weeks.

“What can I do?” he said, his voice weary, his eyes without hope.

“Twelve weeks?” I echoed, and my mind span with the thought of all his children needing food that simply was not there.

And that was what made it so real for me.

The Dust Of Shame

It is not just a political scandal, or a blatant injustice, that many cannot make ends meet in our 21st century society.

It is a human being, stripped of his or her self-esteem, faced with an insoluble dilemma.

It is God’s unique creation, dragged into the dust of shame. It is cruel. And it is happening all around us.

Many come because of benefit sanctions, or because payments are delayed while changes of circumstances make their slow progress into the system.

Others, though working, simply do not earn enough to cope with a sudden breakdown of a washing machine, or to pay off debts.

Some lose jobs through sickness, and lately an increasing numbers of asylum-seekers have been coming.

I have been at the foodbank for five years. I think God must have put me there, perhaps to stop my idle dreaming and ensure I use my organising skills!

It so happened that not long after I joined, the leaders of my distribution centre were struck down with illness or other demands, and I became coordinator.

I have loved every minute.

I love the contact with so many different people and building a harmonious volunteer team.

A Link In A Chain

It is not a big job – we have five coordinators for five centres across South Trafford, one open on each day of the week.

The warehouse manager has a much more arduous job.

Those of us who meet our clients and pack their food have the privilege of getting to know them, hearing their stories and trying to find ways to help.

Yet we would be no good at all without the generosity of donors: school harvest festivals, office collections, supermarkets, churches, and the cooperation of referral agencies who supply our clients with the necessary vouchers.

We are, as Blessed John Henry Newman perfectly worded it, “a link in a chain”.

Advent is a time of expectation.

Whilst we look forward to the coming of Christ, let us spare a thought for those whose everyday expectations have been dashed and pray that Jesus will find a way to bring solutions and his love into their lives.                                                                                                                         

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