As the winter months approach, it feels apt to feature the Durham Foodbank and the university society which supports its work, Beyond Food. We spoke with Alex, the President of the society, about the importance of the Durham Foodbank, how to get involved and what volunteering at university means to her.
18,666 emergency food supplies were given to people in crisis last year by the Durham Foodbank. Set up in 2011, the organization provides three-day emergency meal packages for people in County Durham who need them. It is part of a larger network of 428 foodbanks built by The Trussell Trust across the UK. Alex emphasised how crucial the foodbank’s support to its service users is, and the high volume of supplies that are distributed.
Alex told us about how Beyond Food is a way for students to become involved in the vital work Durham Foodbank does. Last year, the society was able to send student volunteers to help in the Foodbank. However, this year the Foodbank is well staffed and oversubscribed so Beyond Food are channelling all of their support into donations. The Foodbank liason officer suggests that, although they would love and appreciate monetary donations, food donations are the most helpful
Consequently, the primary aim for Beyond Food is to increase food donations from colleges by promoting food donations boxes. They are also planning to start donations before formals too.
If you wish to donate food in college, the box will either be in the reception or JCR. The society has also assigned a Beyond Food representative for each college to keep track of donations and involvement. There are still a number of colleges which need reps, including Jon Snow, Chad’s, Hild Bede and Stephenson. If you would like information or advice on what kinds of food to donate, check out the Durham Foodbank website. Alex suggests tins, pasta, rice pudding, custard and long-life milk.
This year, the Feeding Families project is teaming up with Beyond Food. This project creates Christmas hampers for similar service users of the Foodbank. These hampers contain the usual key items as well as extras such as hot chocolate. Unlike last year, students can get involved in making these hampers and are aiming to raise £1000 in funding by Christmas. If you want to get involved with any of these projects, please email beyondfood.sca@ durham.ac.uk.
“Being able to get out of the Durham bubble is important”
We asked Alex about what volunteering in Durham means to her and the role it plays in her life. After getting involved with a lot of charity projects last year, such as work in her college and the DUCK Rag race team, she was really keen to take more of a leadership role in the DSCA. Last Easter she volunteered on a week-long Durham For Refugees warehouse project where her work ranged from clothes sorting, helping with tents, wood-shop and volunteering in the kitchen. Her involvement in the kitchen fuelled her interest in Beyond Food, as it allowed to her see how valuable food donations are. The prominence of homelessness in Durham is noticeable to us all, and for Alex this has become a driving force in her charity work this year.
She thinks that to create a connection with the local community is a key part of being a student in a new city and said, “Durham is such a bubble, being able to get out of that bubble is really important.” One central aspect of Durham she loves is the fact that charity work and volunteering play such a key role; she views this work as part of being a student here. Alex encouraged everyone to get involved in this project in anyway you can, emphasizing that you can put as much into it as you wish.
We all have busy degrees, but a role with Beyond Food is flexible and does not take up a lot of your time. In doing it, you can help harness the support and donations needed for this incredibly valuable organization.
Illustration by Yasmin Hatton