This month, we spoke to Lindsey O’Donnell who joined the Foodbank team at the beginning of August as our new Signposting Coordinator. The role is completely new to the Foodbank – one which has been introduced to increase our capacity to offer advice and support to help our visitors find long-term and sustainable solutions to their often complex challenges. Hear from Lindsey about her first month in the job, and why signposting is so important for the future of food poverty.
Tell us more about your new role as Signposting Coordinator so far?
My role was created to provide an extra level of help and support to our Foodbank visitors by directing them and helping them to access other organisations and agencies that are best placed to meet their needs – beyond giving them food. People who find themselves having to use a foodbank will be doing so for a variety of reasons and, rather than just giving them food and sending them on their way, we want to help our visitors to get out of the situation that led them here in the first place; whether that be as a result of job loss, mental health issues, or whatever other reasons.
Since I started, I’ve been visiting all of our centres in and around the city; getting to know the volunteers and how it all works. I am now preparing to roll out signposting training and support across our Foodbank centres, while working closely with our volunteers.
Why do you think signposting is so important for the Foodbank’s future?
This is an interesting question to answer because ultimately our goal is to make ourselves redundant; we don’t want there to be food poverty and we don’t want there to be a need for foodbanks. Signposting and getting people help and support for the issues that directly impact their ability to afford food is a step towards this goal. Cambridge has such a strong, well-established network of support services and we don’t want to replicate the provisions of these organisations, we want to collaborate to best serve the needs of our community.
What attracted you to working at the Foodbank?
I’ve been involved in the local food network for a number of years now; from running a business helping people to grow their own food, to cooking meals for the community with FoodCycle, to helping out the Cambridge food hubs, so it feels like a very natural progression to work here.
I love food and I love helping people so I feel like I’m in the right place!
What has been your highlight so far?
Without a doubt it’s the people. The majority of those involved with Cambridge City Foodbank are volunteers, but I’ve found staff and volunteers alike all to be lovely. It’s a pleasure to be working with so many kind, caring and thoughtful people.
And the biggest challenge?
Because my job is focussed on collaborating with other organisations to eradicate food poverty in Cambridge, and poverty more widely, I have realised there are a number of challenges and barriers to overcome to enable us to all work together as efficiently as possible.
What advice would you give to someone considering volunteering for the first time or working for the Foodbank?
Give it a go! You never know where it will lead. It is so rewarding on so many levels. I’ve made firm friends volunteering, all while learning new skills, understanding different perspectives and doing something useful and worthwhile. In fact, my volunteering experience directly contributed to being offered the job with Cambridge City Foodbank.