Who do vegans turn to when in crisis? As the use of foodbanks continues to rise, we look at one organisation working to support people in their time of need.
The rising use of foodbanks in the UK has been widely covered by the news in recent years. In 2017, the Trussell Trust released a report which showed that their foodbank network had distributed 1,332,952 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis. This was a 13% increase on the previous year, with 484,026 of these parcels going to children. Moving forward to 2018 and we’ve seen similar headlines, with estimates that around 14 million people in the UK are living in poverty. Research shows that foodbank users are diverse, coming from many different situations and with unique needs, such as those of a vegan and vegetarian diet. How do these users access the vital supplies that they require from foodbanks, and how do we, the vegan community, support others facing food insecurity?
Foodbanks are volunteer-led and rely on donations from communities and businesses in order to create nutritionally balanced parcels for their users. Non-perishable and in-date food and toiletries are donated by the public from a range of places such as in schools, churches and businesses. It is then sorted by the volunteers and distributed at the centres. A typical parcel can last for three days and provide meals for individuals and families. Foodbank centres will do their best to cater for special dietary restrictions within their resources, but this may not always be possible with their limited resources.
One organisation that was specifically set up to support vegans in this vulnerable situation, is the Human Kindness Vegan Food Bank (HKind). Established by a small group of vegans, their aim is to provide necessary support to other vegans throughout England and Wales during their time in need, without compromising their principles. HKind launched in September 2017 and caters for individual and household requirements, including both human and non-human animals. They can also take into consideration other dietary restrictions such as allergies. With their headquarters based in the north of England, HKind sends out parcels by courier across England and Wales, aiming to have it delivered to those who need it by the next day.Image courtesy of Human Kindness Vegan Food Bank.
Operating and maintaining a foodbank such as this is no small feat, but there are lots of ways we can help. Start at home by looking through your pantry for unopened, in-date non-perishable foods that you won’t get around to using and donate them to a foodbank collection. If it’s within your means, next time you go food shopping, try to pick up some essentials such as pasta/rice/sauces and donate them too. If you’re able to donate your time or skills (such as driving), you can volunteer with foodbanks. HKind are always looking for help running stalls at vegan events, which is a great way to support their work and be an active part of the vegan community. Financial donations are very helpful, especially with foodbanks such as HKind who are covering the cost of posting out parcels to their users. You could donate money yourself, partake in some fundraising activities or buy one of their gift of kindness certificates as a present for those you love.
This September, HKind are celebrating the first anniversary of their work supporting vegans and with more damning statistics coming to light about the impact of government changes and rising foodbank usage, it couldn’t be more necessary. Foodbanks help people with a wide variety of circumstances, including bereavements, disabilities, sudden job losses, domestic violence, benefit struggles, homelessness and more. The circumstances that lead to foodbank usage could happen to anyone, which is why it’s vital that as compassionate individuals, and as vegans who feel strongly about our ethics and beliefs, we can always do more to assist those without the luxury of being able to live through their principles.
by Abigail Stevens
The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.