Jane Stevens, volunteer profile

For this month’s newsletter profile piece, we spoke to a regular volunteer and medical doctor Jane Stevens. Read on to learn more about Jane’s career and her roles and responsibilities at the Foodbank.

Can you tell us about your background?

I was born in London and worked in finance for a few years. My career took me to New York, where I lived for two years, before moving back to London to study medicine. I became a doctor and was a consultant in occupational health for many years; this is about getting people back into work following an illness or an injury. It can also involve providing advice to managers about how to provide appropriate work adaptations for those returning to work or looking to re-enter employment; so I provided support for both sides. I retired in 2019, although I briefly returned to work during the COVID lockdown in 2020. Following my second retirement, I was looking to volunteer an organisation where I could use my skillset and tried volunteering at a few different places before joining the Foodbank.

When, why, and how did you first start volunteering at the Foodbank?

I first started volunteering at the Foodbank around 18 months ago. I actually wanted to start volunteering earlier but, at the time, the Foodbank was only looking for volunteers to provide support in the warehouse. That would require me to lift 20kg – I can manage 15 but 20 was just too much! I’d read somewhere about the Foodbank’s support beyond its emergency food provision – that really interested me as I thought my experience could help to make a positive impact to the lives of others. The emergency food provision is a very important part of the Foodbank’s services, but its long-term vision of eradicating food poverty in the city through additional support is what drew me towards it.

What are your roles and responsibilities at the Foodbank?

I volunteer weekly at the Church of The Good Shepherd in Arbury, where I distribute food, process the vouchers, and talk to the visitors. The Foodbank is such a great place where, no matter what your skillset, you can provide value to the service and help the visitors. Although I only volunteer in one of the distribution centres, I have enjoyed visiting other areas, such as the warehouse, to see how the Foodbank operates overall.

Is there a moment that stands out from your time with the Foodbank?

It’s difficult for me to pinpoint a singular moment, but I always enjoy discussing practical issues with our visitors and providing advice that they can take away from their visits. For example, discussing with the visitors how to get the most out of their food parcels. I also like using the experience I gained throughout my career to talk with those currently unemployed about pathways back into work. For instance, I’ve recently been talking to some visitors that work in construction and have been made redundant and I find this sort of thing very rewarding.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not volunteering with the Foodbank?

Music is a big passion of mine and I play the violin. I’m part of a few different string quartets and sextets, and I play in an orchestra. I also really enjoy art, and I can talk the hindlegs of a donkey about politics and current affairs!

I enjoy travelling and learning languages at a rather basic level. I’m currently trying to learn Chinese.

If there is someone out there that’s considering volunteering for the first time, or looking at volunteering again after some time off, what would your message be to them?

I really enjoy volunteering with the Foodbank. The team is so friendly and supportive, and they all really care about making a positive impact on the lives of others. It’s enjoyable and rewarding, and it makes me feel positive that there are opportunities to provide our visitors with support far beyond just food. Volunteering at Cambridge City Foodbank is a really worthwhile experience.