This morning I went to our local men’s Christian group and dour of us were seated having our breakfast in Wetherspoons to sort out the problems of the world. You never know what is going to happen. We started off talking about swearing and abuse and how each one of us copes with it.
The conversation soon turned to the economic situation, the rise in petrol prices, council tax, gas and electricity and I opined that more people were going to attend food banks. Unbeknownst to me, opposite me sat a person who has had some experience of food banks. There is much more to this service than meets the eye. You can’t just have spare food on display and invite people in from the street to take what they want. My companion gave the example of someone who drove up up.in a decent car, took what they wanted, and left without a word.
The key thing is to have a filter, a voucher that people have to present in order to qualify for their food. The idea is to give people enough for a family to provide breakfast lunch and supper for 3 days. The standard box of food is designed for this purpose. In order to get a voucher you have to go to Social Services, Citizens Advice Bureau or someone competent to assess your situation. On balance I feel this is a discipline that should be observed.
The act of giving out the food parcel can be an opportunity for Christian testimony in the way that it is given and the caring shown. The challenge is if the service be of such a disposition that they they can educe trust in the visitor and are thus seen as a potential source of advice. There is no act too simple for love to be expressed.
I said that some people would be put off off by having to admit they were poor and so should not have the voucher system but this is outweighed by the fact that some people are just plain and simple greedy and will take what they can on. For the four centres that my friend knows about there are about 60 volunteers. Any scheme needs volunteers and if you don’t have the volunteers you cannot provide the service.
End of story.