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Tales from the Food Bank: the Devil's work

"It's hell in here," I say.

"Yes, but I'm going to make it a better hell," says Kyle.

As he is an elder of Blawarthill Parish Church rather than one of Satan's cohorts, I assume he is not planning on new, improved ways of toasting the damned, although he's one of those people whose calm exterior could hide a more complex interior life - so you never know.

No, the admin manager at the food bank wants to make improvements to the stock control system.

My initial comment is because the entire sorting floor is covered in boxes and bags of donations, with boxes stacked on top of each other, bags overflowing ... It is hell when you have two-and-a-half hours maximum to get it sorted and onto the shelves ready to be parcelled, and you're short of volunteers, and you've just been off sick with food poisoning so you're not 100%.

I pile in and begin to wonder where we're going to put it all - the shelves look full.

I can see we have huge amounts of caramel-flavoured porridge oats (mmmm, I'm told they're very ... sweet) after a major donation, and the beans and soup look pretty healthy. Have we got enough?

No, Kyle tells me, we have to worry about things such as juice and milk - we can get through 100 litres of milk in a week. The Trussell Trust, the charity behind the foodbank, says we should try to have a month's stock in hand in case of a sudden surge of clients, to avoid the problem faced by Glasgow's City Mission food bank when its food ran out earlier this year. I begin to wonder if the Trust knows more about coming benefits policy than it's letting on ...

After a lull there seem to be more clients today, or maybe I'm just doing more parcels because there are not so many people. Sourcing volunteers for the foodbank can be a hit-and-miss affair, and one stalwart at least today is away on holiday.

I stay a bit longer, get it all done, stretch, and realise I am knackered. This is hard physical work, shifting as much as 30kg of cans at a time, and now I have my real job to go to. I wonder whether I can keep it up.

Then I think about the young woman who earlier was thanking me - unnecessary, I insist - for handing her the parcel for her and her young son.

Maybe it's sentimental, and I for one am certainly not looking for a halo - I do it because it's a challenge and it gives me personal satisfaction.

"It's a life-saver," the girl tells me. And it's got to be done.

Contextual targeting label: 
Food and drink

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