Cambridge City Foodbank’s driving team is responsible for ensuring that all donations and food items reach our distribution centres in and around the city. As part of our ongoing volunteer Spotlight series, Paul, who has been part of our driving team since the start of the pandemic, explains which road to avoid in Cambridge and why, who is the (arguably) best driver among the team, and which direction he would like to see the Foodbank heading in the next 12 months!
How long have you been volunteering at the Foodbank and what initially inspired you to get involved?
I started volunteering for the Foodbank in March 2020. My partner was working at one of the Foodbank’s centres and suggested to me that more drivers might be needed as the pandemic progressed.
What does a typical volunteering day look like for you?
Each Tuesday afternoon I take a few crates of goods to our Trumpington centre, letting myself in and out of the hall, before I go on to collect the donations from Waitrose nearby. On Friday mornings, on a shared rota, I deliver the typically large drop-off to C3 on Coldham’s Lane and then do a similar collection from the nearby Sainsbury’s.
What has been the biggest challenge of volunteering during the pandemic?
It hasn’t really been too challenging. We have had to wipe down the van before and after use (but we’re all in that boat!) and, of course, there’s no pairing up to share larger jobs, which can make deliveries trickier at times. On the plus side, until recently, the traffic has been quite light and the roads quiet in the past year!
What has been the most memorable thing to happen to you while volunteering?
The Trumpington folk seem a pretty generous bunch. On my first ever trip to Waitrose, the Customer Services team said there was only the donation box to collect, but while I was emptying it someone brought a big cage full of donations they’d been hoarding and it filled nearly 30 crates!
On top of that, it was also incredibly touching to see customers donating special biscuits, sweets, toys and treats in the run up to Christmas.
Which is your favourite (or least favourite!) route through Cambridge?
As the post-lockdown traffic builds back up through East Road, I might find myself taking the M11 to Trumpington – a longer distance but a fair bit quicker and probably less polluting!
What would you like to see the Foodbank doing differently or more of in the next 12 months?
Since I started it’s been both pleasing and disappointing to see the improvements going on, both in terms of expanding with the additional unit at Orwell Furlong, the new electric van and trollies to make crate moving that much easier. Pleasing because it’s making the work less onerous as the need increases; disappointing because, of course, the need has been growing in the first place.
And, finally, who is the best driver among the team? And why?
Unfortunately, I don’t meet up with the other drivers as we take on different runs! So, I’m the best foodbank driver I know (and also the worst!).