A day in the life of the Braintree Area Foodbank team

Lee - Project Manager

My job at Braintree Area Foodbank is managing the day to day running of our food bank, which includes supporting our volunteers and staff to provide emergency food assistance and signposting support to people in crisis across the Braintree District and its surround villages. This is via our four distribution centres across the district.

A morning consists of supporting Henry, our warehouse supervisor with anything he requires for the day ahead of him, liaising with the volunteers at our distribution centres to ensure they are set up ready for the day, and communicating with our transport team that go out four times per week. We have an online e-referral system where agencies refer clients into us via this system, each centre has a tablet where they can access this system to prepare for the day ahead.

On some afternoons we have a shift change and see our second team come into the warehouse. Our drivers have returned and our distribution centres have closed for the day. The afternoon is spent answering calls and speaking with agencies who may be collecting emergency parcels or supporting them to find ways to help their clients as well as clients themselves calling in to find out how the food bank referral system works and donors calling in to offer fantastic support and find out how to donate goods to us.

Between these day to day tasks comes the management of annual events such as Harvest Festival, in-store drives and Christmas time, where we provide gifts to clients that are donated by the local community.

There are lots of other things that come into my role as a project manager, but the bit about my job that I love the most is being able to support our volunteers and clients.

Henry - Warehouse Supervisor

On any given day at the warehouse my first job is to let my volunteers know what tasks need doing and making sure they have everything they need to accomplish them. I also like to have a little chat with them, make sure they are okay and see how their week has been going. I then check in with our project manager to see if there have been any issues or requests that need dealing with.

Then I have to complete daily fire checks, pest control checks and other warehouse related tasks. On top of this there are the usual emails to respond to. A lot of the time this is corresponding with the distribution centres. As warehouse supervisor it is my job to maintain stock levels, manage the volunteers and make sure that the distribution centres get what they need. The warehouse has the job of weighing in and sorting donations, which are then used to pack food parcels for our clients, which is also done here. Our distribution centres then order said parcels and any extra items they may need, such as toiletries. We fulfil these orders and they are delivered by our transport team.

The warehouse has to keep tabs of everything coming in and going out, so that we can accurately report how much stock we have. Every volunteer plays their part in this process and it couldn't be done without them.

Graham - Volunteer / Trustee

A day in the life of a food bank volunteer can encompass a variety of different jobs. In my particular case, I volunteered as a van driver early in 2020, just before we were struck by Covid-19. When the severity of the pandemic became clear, I quickly found myself helping in the warehouse as well.

In my van driver role, I work 1 x 3 hour shift a week. Deliveries are made to one of our four distribution centres first thing in the morning so that they have sufficient stocks of food parcels to satisfy the needs of clients who have been referred to us. We then travel around to large supermarkets or smaller stores, particularly co-op stores in surrounding towns and villages like Witham, Kelvedon and Hatfield Peverel. Here we collect from the donation bins that the stores kindly host for us, load the donations into strong boxes which we then take back to our warehouse.

In my warehouse role, I work 2 x 3 hour shifts each week which involves the weighing-in of donations, sorting of items to put into stock and the making up of food parcels. We pack food into four different categories of parcel so that the clients receive an appropriate amount depending on their family size.

Our warehouse is sizeable but we have to utilise our space carefully so that we can store products in date order. As I managed a warehouse prior to retiring I have been able to use my experience to assist Henry, our warehouse supervisor, in his role.

A few months ago, I was surprised to be offered the chance to become one of eight trustees of Braintree Area Foodbank. I was delighted to accept and am gradually feeling my way into the role which is challenging, but rewarding.