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#foodraising: Neighbourhood collections in Greenhill for Grace Food Bank

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The Bowers Family. Photo by Affordable Event Photography.

When a couple of neighbours invited everyone in the area to a new Whatsapp group the week before the Covid lockdown began, Greenhill resident Deborah Bowers was self-isolating because her daughter had a temperature. Thankfully it was only an ear infection, but her family was really grateful for the support offered by those living nearby.

The Bowers family started thinking about how to raise donations for Grace Food Bank, which serves their area, and came up with the idea of an end-of-the-driveway donation box, "car boot-style, so having things spread out: books, toys and games." Neighbours could take things in exchange for a food donation, with access to disinfectant and an outside tap provided to keep people safe.

"Pretty simple, but by the end of the day we had a car boot full! I contacted the food bank and asked for items that were particularly in need and it was really nice to see that those items were in the collection," Deborah said.

The idea caught on, with others soon joining the drive. "Someone else did it with flowers: take a plant and drop a tin of beans off."

While street-level food bank collections aren't new, Deborah feels the drive has been really successful in bringing in donations, but also in connecting residents. In particular, she was keen to make it clear from day one that anyone in the neighbourhood who was in need - "who may be experiencing hardship for the first times in their lives" - could help themselves to a few items directly from the box, before it was taken to the food bank.

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A car boot full of donations bound for Grace Food Bank.

Looking at the bigger picture of food provision in Sheffield, initiatives like Deborah's are absolutely critical to making sure that all residents are fed. With problems reported with redeeming free school meal vouchers, as well as widespread redundancies and general uncertainty around work, 3,152 people in 1,464 households used food banks in Sheffield during the week beginning 20th April. This suggests that 1 in 160 households in the city needed to go to a food bank to eat.

The Bowers family have also been paid a visit by a local photographer, Paul Reeve of Affordable Event Photography, who took a group portrait of them from the end of their driveway and, following an idea from another neighbour, is getting individual shots of kids to make photo montages of school friends in the area. After asking for donations for his efforts, Paul has raised over £1,000 for Sheffield Mind.

And what about 'when this is all over'? Although some neighbours knew each other before the pandemic, particularly at the top of her street, Deborah tells me she already feels closer to many of her neighbours and she thinks "there's definitely scope to use it as a way of keeping people together and communicating beyond lockdown".

"It was its own little bubble at the top of the street, whereas [the new Whatsapp group] has definitely widened that. It's great to get to know people - when you're out and about getting your daily exercise, thinking, 'Oh, I know you!'

"We're planning a driveway tea party, and thinking of ways we can connect everyone without being close together."

Learn more

If your neighbourhood is doing something to help local food efforts, get in touch on foodraising@weareopus.org.

Grace Food Bank is currently seeking donations of food and money. Details of other food banks can be found at sheffieldfoodbank.org.uk/food-bank-list.

Filed under: #Coronavirus

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