As part of our volunteer spotlight series, this month we are shining a light on our office team and the wonderful work they do in coordinating much of the Foodbank’s core activity. We spoke to long-term volunteer, Joan, who works on the financial side of the office team, about how the pandemic and the move to remote working has changed her role and how it was a chance encounter in Tesco that inspired her to initially join the team.
How long have you been volunteering at the Foodbank and what initially inspired you to get involved?
I have been volunteering with the Foodbank since 2014, after I retired from a career working as an administrator for the NHS and Civil Service.
I’ve always wanted to help people in some way and, having always worked in a busy environment, when I retired I wanted to channel my energy towards giving back to the community. Before I came across the Foodbank, I did some training with Citizen’s Advice Bureau, which provided me with a good grounding for my role today. In fact, I actually first encountered the Foodbank at one of its collection points in Tesco, where I got talking to the volunteer coordinator. I was keen to find out where I would be best placed to help serve the Foodbank; with my background, the office team seemed like a sensible choice.
What does a typical volunteering day look like for you?
Before the pandemic, my role on a day-to-day basis mainly involved inputting bills on an accounting system and authorising payments to suppliers. Nowadays my role is inputting donations onto the accounting system and authorising payments to suppliers. When I first started out at the Foodbank there was just three of us in the office in Cowley Road. The team has grown a lot since then, as has the rest of the Foodbank.
What has been the biggest challenge of volunteering during the pandemic?
Along with the rest of the country, the whole team has been working from home for the past year or so, but I would say it has been, by and large, a fairly smooth transition to remote working. I am still able to continue with the authorisation of payments through the bank. My overall method of working has changed due to not being in an office environment and not having access to things like the photocopier but, otherwise, it has been a smooth transition.
Where would you like to see the Foodbank in the next 12 months?
I would like to see the Foodbank completely gone! Realistically, I would say that a big part of combatting food poverty is understanding its root cause. I would like to see our teams tackling these problems from the ground up, helping to educate visitors on how to budget, save money and eat more healthily. If, together, we can address the cause of poverty more directly, the need for a Foodbank should be greatly reduced.