Friday, 26 April 2013


I'd like to say we're not bowing to the inevitable.  But we are.  Sheffield Jesus Centre is joining the relentless army of faith-based organisations setting up crisis support for the hungry.  There are already 13 centres in Sheffield.  Our nearest one, which I shall refer to as S6, is overwhelmed.  Already 42 agencies refer in to them.  We're opening as a satellite, to share their load in a copeable way.

In the city, many centres are independent and some are part of the Trussell Trust network.  S6 is number 275 in Trussell's impressive roll-out.  Andy and Chris are the two main drivers.  We've spent the first months of 2013 getting to learn their operation.  There's also a monthly get-together for anyone involved or interested in Sheffield, which we've ended up hosting.

Margaret came to train our volunteers.  The procedures are tight.  Trussell Trust balance on a fine line between helping genuinely needy clients and avoiding longer-term dependency.  Whatever else you say, that's vital.  They also have pre-set selections of food items.  There's an element of discretion, where stocks allow, just so that clients feel valued.  Donations come partly through nationally-agreed arrangements with big suppliers, and local collections, also mainly involving supermarkets. 

We had to learn about how a session runs, how to check off the vouchers and the pick-lists, and what to do with exceptional cases.  Each parcel weighs 10 kilogrammes, so a mum with kids may have quite a cargo to negotiate.  We spotted that the Foodbank may create a confusion about the other food donations was already offer.  So we'll need to keep the services and respective teams distinct.  When we start, we'll pick up our day's supplies from S6, and report back any issues.  Meanwhile, we're sending some of our folks over on a Tuesday morning to learn the rope.

Trussell's voucher, distribution and stock replenishment systems are all computerised.  This was an impressive early investment, and has enabled the network to grow rapidly.  There's also a systematic volunteer registration process, so that our Jesus Centre people will need to sign up individually (with free training).   The Trust works through churches and Christian groups like ours, which is where they began, and where they feel the operation works best overall.

So, May 11th and 12th will see our volunteer team outside the local Waitrose.  There we'll attempt to charm the great Sheffield shopping public into sparing some donations.  We open on Monday June 3rd.  A great adventure.

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