Supporting Food Banks: Lessons from the Warehouse

After our company food bank collection at Christmas, our team wanted to do more to help so we arranged a volunteering day at the main warehouse in West Lothian. Volunteers from our office spent the day sorting, picking and packing just some of the 25 tonnes of food they had on site.

October to February is the warehouse’s busiest time for donations and every extra pair of hands really makes a difference in making sure the operation works effectively and the food gets to those who need it.

Recent donations for the West Lothian Food Bank

Recent donations for the West Lothian Food Bank

We, of course, thought the day would be a good thing to do to support our community, and as a company we thought it might also provide a good opportunity for a bit of team bonding but what we didn’t expect was to learn so much about donating food, what happens next and how we can help.

Since then we have decided to do a collection at work every quarter, making sure we help throughout the year. Those who spent the day onsite have been sharing their hints and tips with the rest of the team and we thought it would be good to share these with you too.

So here are our lessons from our day in the West Lothian Food Bank warehouse:

It’s not just food

Yes , they are called food banks but it’s not only food items that they can accept. People collecting from food banks are also in need of items you might not think of straight away. Things such as cleaning products, personal hygiene items and baby items including nappies, creams and baby wash. If you are looking to donate, it’s these items that they are always low on. Have a look in your bathroom cabinet or kitchen cupboards and think about the things you would really need. Bonus tip: if you are buying toiletries, think shower rather than bath. Baths use up too much hot water.

Donations aren’t just for Christmas

our volunteers sorting out the pasta donations

#teampasta

As we mentioned, October to February are the busiest months for donations but don’t forget the rest of the year. Stocks can run low during the summer months and the run up to October so if you can, make a point to help out then.

Short best before dates are okay

One of the first things we did at the warehouse was to sort the donations by date order so that those with best before dates coming up were handed out first. This is a huge task in itself but an important one as it makes sure nothing goes to waste. So if you have tins lurking in the back of your cupboard with a best before date coming up (at least a couple of months), they are still okay to hand in.

Sardines and mash is not an option for dinner!

Making up food parcels at the West Lothian Food Bank Warehouse

Making up food parcels at the West Lothian Food Bank Warehouse

After sorting items into food types and date order we were then tasked with making up food parcels either for individuals or families. There were certain things we had to be aware of including overall weight, amount and range of items and of course whether the foods actually

went together. After our first attempt at making up a food parcel we were then asked to look at what we’d selected and think about whether we could make a meal from them. Needless to say a few of us had to make some alterations to our parcels!

 

No more beans!

volunteers sorting out the tins of soup in the warehouse

#teamsoup!

Okay this might not apply to every food bank but at our local warehouse they have over a year’s supply of beans, a YEAR! If you aren’t sure what to donate, look up your local food bank at TrussellTrust.org , they all have a list of items they need most and things they have plenty of in stock. Many food banks also have their own Facebook page and will post updates on things they are running low on so it’s worth following their page.

Don’t forget the can openers

When we were organising our reverse advent calendar at Christmas we contacted our local food bank to arrange delivery and asked them if there was anything else they were short on. “Can openers!” came the response. Whilst many tins do have the ring pull on them not all do, so it’s worth either taking the time to make sure you select tins with the ring pull or perhaps popping a few tin openers in with your donation. Other practicalities to consider are about the method of cooking. Not everyone will have an oven, have the money to turn it on or have lots of other ingredients in their house so consider how your donations will be used and what else they would need to use them.

There’s more than one way to help

Most people who donate will pop items in the collection point at supermarkets, and this is a really great way to help but there are other ways too:

  • Hand-in directly to a location donation centre
  • Work as a group
    • Whether it’s at work, school or a group of friends or family, this can really make a big difference. By running a collection at our office we raised over 248 meals worth of food which is just incredible!
  • Donate your time
    • Look on your local food bank’s website to see what help they need, or give them a call. They may need things picked up, delivered, packed and sorted. There’s a lot more to do than you might realise.
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