Blogs, Responsible business

Sustain food bank – a lifeline in difficult times

Farrer Kane offers everyone in the team the option of taking a day out of the office to volunteer with a cause of their choice. Clo Davey, a director at the agency, reflects on her experience with Sustain, the Tonbridge-based food bank.

With busy work and home lives, it is easy to overlook things happening right under your nose. That’s how, after more than a decade living in Tonbridge, I only recently discovered a food bank less than a mile from home doing incredible work day in day out.

I’d always been vaguely aware that Tonbridge Baptist Church (or TBC as it is affectionately known) was ‘active’ in the community but I didn’t have a clear sense of what that entailed. So, as part of our agency Volunteering Day policy, where staff can take a day off (separate to their holiday allowance) for volunteering, I decided to find out more.

When I turned up on a cold, grey morning, I was delighted to receive a hugely warm welcome from the Wednesday team which, I’m reliably informed, is the best one. I felt very lucky and grateful, as they certainly lived up to that reputation, making me feel like part of the gang immediately.

TBC’s food bank, Sustain is a slick and polished operation, offering food parcels for individuals and families, including fresh and baked goods donated by local supermarkets as well as food items with a longer shelf-life.

My main task was to make up food packages for collection over lunch. I found this surprisingly satisfying: the joy of accessing an orderly and well-stocked larder, the Tetris-like challenge of fitting all the required items into the bags, and the regimental appeal of creating row upon row of bags.

But this was no soulless production line. While I expected volunteers to operate at the kinder end of the scale, I was touched by how kindness seemed to permeate every action. Bags are packed with genuine attention to detail, with careful thought as to how a family might in a practical sense pull a meal together from the contents. I was particularly moved to see that trouble was taken to add a treat to every bag, as an extra small touch of kindness.

While I was there, a woman who was due to give birth in a few weeks turned up seeking help, and a special care bag was created for her, with essentials for her newborn (nappies, wipes, baby bath etc) as well as some scented soap for her.

With their warmth and thoughtfulness, the team create an overwhelming sense that everyone is important and all are welcome.

It is always helpful to be reminded to consider things from different perspectives, in both our personal and professional lives. Volunteering certainly encourages you to do that, not only offering a small window into the lives of the people benefiting from the services provided, but also giving you a chance to see life through the eyes of other volunteers, who in my case had been involved in industries ranging from global food & drink to architecture.

At the end of my stint, I was shocked to see how empty the shelves looked again, evidence of what I was told is a need that is growing, with more people having to rely on food banks like Sustain.

To find out about your local food bank, including how to donate or get involved, contact your local council, or visit the Sustain website if you’re in the Tonbridge area.

Image credit Laura Mitulla on unsplash

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