Cambridge City Foodbank is delighted to welcome Stephen Thornton as its new Chair of Trustees. Read our interview to find out more about Stephen’s background in the healthcare industry, his pathway to supporting Cambridge City Foodbank and his vision for the next 12 months.
How long have you been involved with Cambridge City Foodbank? What inspired you to get involved?
I was a trustee for Cambridge City Foodbank for around 12 months before I stepped up as Chair in September 2020. One of my other volunteering roles is as a volunteer generalist advisor at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) in Cambridge, which is one of the referral agencies for Cambridge City Foodbank. Through my work with CAB I was frequently speaking one-on-one with the people most in need of the Foodbank’s support and often found myself referring people for Foodbank vouchers. This experience is what first got me interested in finding out more about Cambridge City Foodbank and how it works, and I was then approached by David, our previous Chair, who encouraged me to become more actively engaged.
What is your background before your volunteering work?
I had a career in healthcare and in the NHS for many years, including a role as Chief Executive of the Health Authority in Cambridge. I also spent a decade as CEO of the Health Foundation which gives grants and awards to individuals and organisations in the NHS that are doing interesting and exciting things to improve the quality of care for patients. I retired from this role in 2014 and was keen to get involved in a number of local and national ventures; this is when I began working with CAB.
For around 20 years, I was also a trustee for a small Cambridge-based charity called the Aquaid Lifeline Fund which provides support for children and young people in Malawi who have been orphaned due to their parents dying of AIDs or other diseases. This experience gave me a real insight in to what extreme poverty looks like, and it saddens me to see parallels of this in our affluent society in the UK and Cambridge, in particular – people are struggling on a day to day basis with poverty, debt, relationship and employment issues.
Where would you like to see Cambridge City Foodbank in 12 months from now?
My dream is that we no longer need the Foodbank because there is no poverty – but frankly that is unrealistic in this time frame. So instead, I would like to see us doing more of the same and a few new things too. We have a wonderful addition to the standard Foodbank offering – Fairbite – members pay a small fixed amount each time they shop and are then able to choose items they need and want from the shelves like they would in any other shop. We have lots of ideas and plans to expand this, opening more centres and potentially even introducing a mobile version too.
We also want to conduct some research into what other foodbanks around the country have done to supplement their core offer. We will look at what other foodbanks are working on to see if there is anything we can learn from them. We have been extremely well blessed with financial support from the community this year, and we are always reviewing the best ways we can use funds to benefit people in need in the community.