Food Banks — A Look Inside

It’s not like Sainsbury's

Food banks are a great idea. People who have no food don’t need to starve, they can go to a food bank and get some food. Awesome.

But have you ever been to one?

They are pretty grim.

They are run by well-meaning church ladies, so it seems. Probably because, here in the UK, they are usually found in churches.

Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash

It works like this:

You walk nervously through the doors, clutching your red card in your sweaty hand.

A red card tells the food bank that you have permission to get some food.

(Church ministers can give them out, social services, your doctor and other government officials.)

You smell that old, musty church smell. You make your way to an open space where pews are normally placed and there, instead, are some sofas, some little round coffee tables.

Then a nice woman comes up and offers you a cup of tea.

You are momentarily distracted by the other clientele. The obviously drug-addicted men, hanging out together. The women with babies with scabby faces. The solemn-looking men hunched over their coffee cups, and the elderly folk sitting there, with shame written right across their aged faces.

Your heart goes out to each and every one of those folk.

“Or would you like coffee?” the nice church lady offers.

“Er, coffee please.”

“Sugar?” she offers brightly.

“No thanks.”

“There are biscuits on the table”, she points out helpfully.

You sit down. You move a cup that someone has left there. Trying to make yourself as small as possible you huddle your hands around the coffee cup, as every church is cold.

A man sits down beside you and asks you if you nicked his coffee. No, you shake your head and point to his cup.

He drinks his coffee in silence.

You want to talk to him. You see his coat, it is by a brand you recognise as expensive. So you ask him: “Why are you here?”

Your faux pas is like the clashing of cymbals, every hair on your body prickles as the man slowly looks around, staring you in the eye. He replies: “I’m just out of prison”.

“Better out than in” you quip, lamely.

You ask him if he was okay if he had a place to sleep. In England, people are sometimes just left on the street, but in Scotland, it seems everyone goes to a sort of half-way house. You were glad he had somewhere to live.

Nice lady appeared again, having checked the red card. “You are allowed food for two people, do you have a bag?”

You pull out a sports bag.

She directs you to a crate full of tins and packets. Out of the corner of your eye, you see a young mum pile in packets of biscuits and sweets for the kids. You would swap your bag for hers any day!

She fills the sports bag with food for your larder, nothing fresh of course. Nice lady points you to a table with food on it that is nearly at the end of date. You can take anything from there.

Transaction completed.

You lug your sports bag over your shoulder, say goodbye to prison man, and walk out of there. Food on your back and your stomach grumbling, you walk the three miles home to have something to eat, at last.