Day 57 of 100 Days

Sarah Swaysland

Friday, 26th February 2021

Today, I had just the one job, but it was a big one and an important one. It's not featured it on my #100Days before today, but it involves hanging out with my local MP and a bunch of lovely local councillors.

What: Food Bank Volunteering
Organisation: The Fresh Food Bank, Pollards Hill

I last volunteered at the food bank the Friday before Christmas and had been meaning to get down there sooner than today, but I just found myself busy and unable to. The Pollards Hill food bank helps feed about 80 families a week and is supported by the incredible enthusiasm of the local councillors, our local MP and the Dons Local Action Group. Hands-down, I have one of the best local MPs ever. Every Friday, Siobhain McDonagh volunteers down at the local food bank, and will always roll up her sleeves to pack the boxes, and then talk to the families as they are coming to collect the parcels. She’s really nice, and it’s also a great way for her to stay in touch with her local councillors and have a good natter. The food bank is run by the Leader of the Council, Mark, and it just gives me such great hope that I live within a community with such an active group of councillors.

Every week, the variety of food is different. When I was last there, we were overrun with eggs, potatoes and pasta; this week, there was hardly any pasta or potatoes, but a shedload of noodles. They were quite short on food in comparison to previous weeks, as the donations have been slowing down and are not as plentiful as before. Every time I go shopping, I try to put something in the food bin for the food bank. Sometimes it’s some spaghetti, which costs 20p in Lidl; if I’m feeling a little flush, I’ll buy some teabags. My point is, in material terms, it doesn’t cost much to help a family who are struggling to put food on the table. And if you’re able to go to the food bank to physically help, the more the merrier – you just might make some new friends.

I never expect anything in return for my voluntary work, but there are sometimes little bonuses. Today, I was given some plantain to take home, because there was a very generous gift of two massive boxes of it. We had some left over, and I was chatting to Brenda, one of the councillors, while packing boxes and she was talking me through what to do with it. Plantain is essentially a savoury banana, which to the uninitiated is a really weird concept to get your head round. According to Brenda, the way to do it is fry it in olive oil, with nothing else. For lunch, I followed instructions, put a little salt on it and it was very tasty.

When I got home, I had a lovely catch-up with a really good friend of mine, Zena. She’s currently based up in Birmingham and is herself undertaking some interesting voluntary work during lent. For her 40 day challenge, she’s writing a different letter every day to someone in her life (and she’s also giving up chocolate and ice cream, but that’s not relevant to this). So far, she’s written to nine people, including previous neighbours, a former housemate and the man who used to do her car MOTs. It’s going well so far, and I can’t wait to hear more about her journey. There’s something about returning to pen and paper that is really grounding. We live in such a digital world, but it’s comforting to remember that you can always return to the analogue if you want to.