Needed More Than Ever

In times of crisis, we find out what we are made of. I am often surprised at what comes out of me when the pressure is on – sometimes I impress myself, sometimes not so much.

What we have seen in the last few days is a range of reactions to an unprecedented situation. The coronavirus pandemic has pushed some to rush out to supermarkets to grab as much as they can for their households. There are some legitimate reasons for this – one friend of mine has children with significant allergies: they can’t just eat whatever is left on the shelves. Others have newborn babies or elderly relatives, so cannot risk going short of certain products.

PICTURE: Natalie Williams

However, many have stockpiled due to fear rather than necessity, and this is causing a deepening crisis for those who were already trapped in poverty, or living on the cusp of it. Only those with extra resources can afford to stock up for the next few weeks. Those who live hand-to-mouth may only be able to afford the basics even at the best of times. Many don’t have savings or support networks to fall back on.

I work at King’s Church overseeing social action and community engagement. We run or co-run eight projects that aim to support those trapped in poverty or facing injustice of one type or another.

Hastings Foodbank is the largest of these projects and is significantly affected by the best and worst responses to coronavirus. On the one hand, stockpiling has caused us to become very short of certain items of food. We’ve been putting out pleas for donations of the things we urgently need – long-life milk, pasta sauce, tinned potatoes, tinned tomatoes, tinned veg, tinned fish, rice pudding, coffee, long-life juice, spreads and tinned meat – and the wonderfully generous people of Hastings have rallied, like they always do, but many have contacted us to say they tried to buy something for us but couldn’t find any of these items. The shelves are empty.

We have seen some saddening selfishness in response to Covid-19. People are afraid and anxious, and that can lead them to shut down to the needs of others. But we’ve also seen some heart-warming heroes – people going without some food items themselves so that they can donate to those in greater need; those offering their money or time to help us out; people sharing far and wide across social media to support us as we look to support those who are struggling.

PICTURE: Natalie Williams

Those who live hand-to-mouth may only be able to afford the basics even at the best of times

In today’s foodbank session we gave out food to 205 people (including 97 children). We are operating differently so that people aren’t in close proximity, but still trying to make sure we catch first time the discreet whispers of women and teenage girls asking for sanitary items, and embarrassed men wondering if we have any shower gel or toothpaste.

The stories we’re hearing are as heartbreaking as ever – local people have already lost their jobs and are worried about what the future holds. We have an opportunity, as a local community, to demonstrate great compassion, kindness and selflessness at this time. Many are rising to it already. Now is the time for us to step up and pull together, looking out for our neighbours and living up to our reputation for wonderful community spirit.

Natalie Williams
Community Engagement Manager, King’s Church 


HIP SAYS…

It is a privilege to host such powerful writing – I would say a pleasure, but it is in fact heartbreaking that this needs to be said. Every comment piece I have commissioned so far has had vital things to say, but this feels so desperately important right now. I would urge people who are not presently quarantined or self-isolated and are still at the ‘social distancing’ phase to donate to Hastings Foodbank where they feel they can safely do so. Donations can be taken to The Hastings Centre, The Ridge, TN34 2SA, which is opposite the Conquest Hospital. They are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm, but you may also wish to check ahead via the Hastings Foodbank Facebook page
Thank you. 
Juliet Harris
Editor, Thoughts and Voices


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