Monday, 8 December 2014

So you want to know about

food banks and the need for food banks here?
Yesterday someone tweeted a request for people to share his blog post about food banks in England - and the need to donate to them if you could.
It was not a political post at all. It was just a request to share the information and consider donating.
We have food banks here Downunder too. They have been around for a long time. Some of the people who use them would surprise others - and some would not surprise you at all.
Let me start years back. My mother was the principal of a "difficult" school in a "socially depressed" area. Well over half the children came from households where the father was absent. If the father was present then it was unlikely he was working. People lived, and still live, on social welfare benefits. There were problems with drugs and alcohol but there were also problems with ill-health, mental illness and other social issues such as gambling.
A good many of the children came to school without breakfast or sometimes even lunch. (There are no "school dinners" here.)
On coming into the school for the first time my mother was alerted to this, and many other problems, by the woman who was the school secretary. She had brought up four boys on her own - and done it extremely well. She knew that most of the parents she met did not have her skills, her ability or even her determination to do the best for their children.
It took a while but they, and other similar schools, started  Breakfast Clubs. The kids got cereal and bread with something on it and milk to drink. Behaviour improved and so did learning. That was thirty years ago.
The need for Breakfast Clubs has grown since then. At least most of the youngest children are getting something to eat in the  mornings. The problem is that many of the older children are not.
They are expected to fend for themselves.
A friend of ours works at a food bank here. It's a volunteer position which has become almost full-time. Recently they had a child of about ten turn up.  He was looking for milk for himself and his three siblings. His mother had been there once before and he had found his way back.
His father is in hospital - and not going to come out. His mother had a migraine headache and had been too ill to lift her head from the pillow for two days. There is money, although very little. The problem was that it was in the form of a credit card - and the child could not use it. He had nothing with which to buy milk for the cereal so they had eaten it dry and drunk water for breakfast. He didn't know what to feed the others on during the day but thought he could find something but please could he have some milk?
They needed a little short term help from the food bank - and yes, he was given some milk and someone checked on them and provided an emergency pack of food that did not need to be cooked so the child could manage. The mother was well enough to come and thank them a couple of days later.
People can need to use a food bank for all sorts of reasons. Of course there will be those who spend their money on drugs and alcohol and cigarettes and gambling and then expect others to feed them. But there will also be families like the one of the child who wanted some milk who also need help - because of happenings over which they have no control.
Our friend assures me that someone will keep a watch out for this family. They will make sure the children, who are about to lose their father, will get a Christmas present.
So yes, as the writer of the English blog post said, someone needs you.