And I'm over the moon about it!
** Update** On 23rd November 2023, the cashback app JamDoughnut matched the value of the gift cards donated so far and sent me a £600 Morrisons gift card to put towards keeping the food larder stocked! It was a fantastic and much-appreciated donation that came out of the blue and was a genuine desire to help out, not any sort of advertising/publicity campaign, so thanks very much for that JamDoughnut!
If you follow my social media, you will likely have seen that I currently have a little project on the go, which involves a local community food larder. This community food larder is an old red phone box that's being used as a community food bank.
Located at a local church, the food larder relies on donations from local residents. It is an important and convenient place for anybody struggling to put food on the table to be able to go to and pick up some food at no cost.
As I say, this food larder relies completely on donations from the local community, and as such, when these donations don't come in, there's literally nothing in there for somebody to be able to take to feed the family.
I find this very distressing. In 2017, my business went bust, and I went into personal bankruptcy. The financial toll that took was devastating to my family. We had to rely on yellow sticker food to ensure that we could eat, as every penny we had went on paying rent and our bills and financial commitments. It was an absolutely awful time; my mental health went through the floor, and we really struggled so badly. I wasn't aware of any food bank community food larder in my area, the cost-of-living crisis wasn't as bad as it is these days, and there was little or no information on what somebody could do who was in my situation, luckily it's far better nowadays!
If I had known of such a way of being able to feed the family at such little cost, it would've made all the difference, but I didn't, and I struggled, and knowing that this food larder is there but empty is heartbreaking. I can imagine the stress and disappointment someone must feel going to this larder to find it empty and then worrying about how they're going to feed their family that day.
I have a Vodafone account, and every week or so, the Vodafone rewards app, Vodafone Rewards, offers Vodafone customers a free gift card for Sainsbury's or Morrisons supermarkets. It's usually around £2 in value and is a nice little bonus to receive. I've not always used my gift card, and it's gone to waste. I've seen a few people on Instagram asking their followers if they're not going to use the gift card and if they could give them instead. I thought that was quite a good idea, but rather than somebody using it to buy themselves something, I thought it would be nice to buy food and donate it to a food bank instead.
Knowing about the phone box community food larder, that was my first thought, and so for the last few weeks, I've been advertising on my Instagram stories that if anybody would like to donate to me the gift card if they're not going to use it, I will in return go to the local supermarket pick up supplies and put them in their community food larder.
The responses have been fantastic! So many people have gotten behind this and now send me their excess gift card every time they have one. It's meant that I've been able to stock the food larder many times, and as a social media community, we've been able to supply hundreds of meals to those people who really need the help, which is absolutely fantastic
While stocking up the phone box one morning, a gentleman came over to me and asked me if I was adding to the larder, which I was. He said he had been to the larder earlier that morning, and it was completely empty. He hadn't eaten anything the day before, as the larder was empty he didn't expect to be able to eat that day either! Therefore, he was very happy that he was able to take some food and would be able to eat that day!
That shows the level of desperation people are in when it comes to being able to feed themselves and their family, and having been in that very same position myself, I can imagine exactly what that means! It felt great to see him walk away with a big smile on his face, knowing he had food, and I left with a big smile as well, knowing that my social media community donations had made a difference to that man and many other people as well.
Many people message me to say well done and thank you, but my response is always the same: It's team teamwork! Without people donating their gift cards, I couldn't stock that food larder. Our family finances are still fairly poor, but we can afford to eat, and we pay our bills on time. We can't afford to finance the food larder ourselves, and so, as a big old social media community, we have found a way to feed those in need, which is amazing! I'm just the shopper; it is the community donations that make the difference, so it's teamwork all the way!
In this day and age, we don't expect UK citizens to be in this situation; it's the sort of thing you see on TV in underdeveloped countries. It is heart-wrenching that the situation not only exists here but it's a major problem for many people.
What can you do to help? If you are. If Vodafone rewards users who would like to get involved in my project, then please follow my Instagram page, and you'll see on my stories, usually a Friday when I'm collecting gift cards for a food bank shop, and I will gratefully receive any donations.
If you're not a Vodafone user and want to be involved, You are very welcome to email any gift cards you might have spare or want to buy to donate to our email - firstname.lastname@example.org. We don't deal with cash as it is a tax minefield, and so to anyone who doesn't want to go down the gift card route, I always say that, although it won't help my local community, you can help your local community by picking up something extra when doing your food shop and pop it in the food bank basket that most supermarkets have these days. Food poverty isn't a local issue; it's a national one; every donation made, no matter if you live in Edinburgh or Torquay, will help out someone in need, and for the sake of a 29p tin of beans, you might be making the difference between someone eating that day or going hungry, and for me, the latter isn't acceptable
If you are struggling to keep food on the table, your local council will be able to tell you where to find a local food bank, the Trussell Trust has lots of useful information, and you can use the app Olio to find excess food you can collect locally, for free.