Beestonians through lockdown: Suzanna Plimmer, secondary school teacher

How volunteering for a foodbank opened a Beestonian’s eyes…

We were told by my school that we’d be off for two weeks, so leave everything on our desks and we’d be back in a fortnight. That night, Boris told us we’d be having the full shutdown. I’ve got three kids away at different unis, so I called them home – get back quickly. One of them, studying in Liverpool, thought it was all a fuss about nothing. I didn’t get to see her for six months.

I had a couple of weeks just doing my Joe Wicks and whatever, but I felt in limbo. I was sewing scrubs and that was something, but I felt I needed to do more.  I went to my local Co-op and said: “If you want me to help stock the shelves then I’m happy to help”. Remember, back then it was hard to get anything, and I thought volunteering to help might make it easier for them, and for my community. They said yes, and I got to work.

One night, the manager told me he was sending a load of food down to the Haven food bank in Stapleford. I was curious, so found out more, and ended up asking a bloke working there, Richard (Macrae, Stapleford Community Group Director and local councillor) if I could volunteer more. I started by going to the food bank twice a week at the food bank picking the food. There’d be people with short term needs, people with long term needs, people with mental health issues: we’d serve them all. I was shocked at how many people needed help.

I moved on to deliveries, and what shook me was how there were people I knew, who never in my mind did I imagine they were needing help. I visited one set of flats, a building close to me which I had somehow not really noticed before. I gave the woman living there some nappies. She burst into tears: her baby hadn’t worn nappies for two days. That moment did something to me. I thought how the evening before I’d opened my fridge and thrown away all the crap I hadn’t yet eaten that week. I was struck by what a waste it all was: I could afford to throw food away while this poor woman couldn’t afford nappies.

Since then, I only buy exactly what I need, nothing else. It’s morally corrupt to throw stuff away. I will never do so again and will encourage others to do so. I take my lunches to work, and every scrap of leftovers is eaten. Until I worked at the food bank I didn’t know the extent to which this was all happening. We’re a rich nation, yet people have to rely on these silent heroes to help them. The last few months have given me the opportunity to have some clarity. Life before was a hamster wheel, working long hours and not having time to think about much outside work. I’ve seen what is important and what isn’t important.

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