Little deeds of kindness,
little words of love,
make our earth an Eden,
like the heaven above.
Little Drops of Water
by Julia Carney, 1845
Most people have at some point in time gone through one or two tough patches – be it that they last for weeks, months or sadly even years. For some people the worst of a tough patch may mean the need to cut back on expenses. For others it may mean that people struggle to pay bills and even to put food on the table. This is a problem that is heightened during a recession.
Fortunately for people in Milton Keynes that are faced with such situations there are two food banks that I am aware of that aim to support people during these times.
There is one based at St Mary’s Church through which they work along with a number of other local churches collect food contributions which are then delivered to people in need.
They work in conjunction with the other food bank, which is based at Milton Keynes Christian Centre, and is registered as an independent charity which works with different agencies across Milton Keynes to support people in need.
Milton Keynes Food Bank operates on a voucher/referral system whereby people who visit a number of different agencies within
191the City and are identified as people with highlighted needs, inclusive of those provided for by the Food Bank, are provided with vouchers which enable them to go to the food bank to obtain a free food parcel.
Food for the food banks comes from local community and church congregation members who make donations of tinned and dried food or finance (for the purchase of food). One of the great things is that the people who donate include people who may have benefited from the food banks in the past, such as a lady who benefited from a food bank during a tough period when she had a small baby. Recognising that the food bank did not store baby food, she made a decision to donate baby food. In addition there are a number of organisations (both within and outside of Milton Keynes) such as New Covent Garden Food which also donate to the food bank.
When I learnt about the food bank, I made a decision to make a monthly contribution to it. Specifically I give myself a monthly budget which has changed over time from £5.00 to either £10 or £20 dependant on my budget for the month. (The change in amount is aimed at covering rises in the cost of living). In the grand scheme of things it’s not a significant amount of money for me; I often spend that amount or more on a night out. But that’s not the point.
Initially, on my designated food bank weekend, I go to the shops with my shopping budget, normally in cash as to meet my objectives, it is important that I keep within my budget. The task is to buy something reasonable within my budget for a family, couple or individual, ensuring that I only buy for them things that I would buy myself. Subsequently, as I don’t generally buy economy products for myself, I don’t buy them for anyone else. I generally find it challenging to walk out of the shop with something reasonable within my budget, but I make it a point to stick within my budget, because I want to put myself in that position so that I have a greater understanding and empathy for the people I’m helping. In time I discovered that the Food Bank actually has at least of products that it provides people with, so I changed my approach and now buy things off the list.
At times like Christmas, I often leave the shops feeling quite sad. For some reason (maybe it’s my imagination,) things seem to be more expensive at Christmas, but there are still an overwhelming number of people walking around filling their trolleys until they nearly overflow as I carry a little basket, trying to pick up a few things that are actually affordable. I often wonder whether they will ever be able to eat all that food over the Christmas period and question what Christmas is now about. But this is not the point either.
The point is that for someone on a limited budget, such as people on benefits or facing a temporary setback, it must be hard. Income support does not allow for much more in a week than what I budget to contribute to the food banks. For this reason amongst others I very much doubt that there are many people that live off of benefits unless they feel – rightly or wrongly, that they are compelled to do so. Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are people who are out to play the system, but for the vast majority of people on benefits, it is not by choice.
From: Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective by Susan Popoola