Finding a new space has become a priority for Portishead Foodbank as Miriam Dunn discovers

Volunteers in action at the foodbank on a Friday

While going digital has enabled many organisations to look carefully at how they use their premises, space, or more accurately a lack of it, remains a topical issue for the team at Portishead Foodbank, as I discovered when paying them a visit recently.

Popping into Gordano Valley Church office, where the foodbank is currently based, I immediately realised that the volunteers run an incredibly tight ship. Food items are categorised and organised meticulously to facilitate the pick-listing process, for example, while donations ready for weighing and parcels bagged up are allocated precise areas for storage. However, while every space available to the team is fully utilised, there’s very little room to manoeuvre. 

The lack of space presents dilemmas for the foodbank team as Pat Gordon, manager of the Portishead facility, explained. “We definitely don’t want the donations to stop coming, so do our best to work around the challenges,” she acknowledged. “We’re also very aware that while GVC church generously offered us use of more of its meeting rooms last year, the arrangement was only ever a temporary one.”

Like many changes in ways of working, the set-up has its roots in the onset of the Covid-19 crisis. Although the Portishead site comes under the umbrella of the Clevedon and District Foodbank, when the first lockdown was imposed, the team decided that it made more sense to receive and distribute donations at the local distribution point – a revised system that remains in place today. 

Against that backdrop, Portishead Foodbank has been looking for new premises, but to date with no success. “Portishead Town Council have very kindly provided us with some useful additional storage space but what we’re really looking for is a new premises, ideally 1500 square feet of space,” Pat admitted. “We’d be delighted if anyone is able to help us!” 

The team hope that roomier facilities will also enable them to once again begin inviting clients in for coffee and a chat, now that the Covid-19 regulations permit them to do so. “We’re all about signposting to other organisations and getting to the root of people’s problems by talking to them,” she said. “Ideally we’d like to have the space to also bring in representatives from other organisations and charities.”

The number of people seeking support from the Portishead Foodbank has unsurprisingly risen since the onset of Covid, with figures showing that 623 parcels were handed out in January – December 2020, up from 270 in the same period the previous year. However, the challenges of a difficult year were balanced with bonuses, including the addition of fresh food to the offerings, following the setting up of a partnership with Brakes Foodservice in March 2020. The team will now be hoping for more good news in the form of bigger premises that will enable them to continue offering what is undoubtedly, to some, a welcome and essential service.

Do you have space that might be suitable for Portishead Foodbank to use to run their operations? You can find out more about their requirements by emailing them or messaging them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PortisheadFoodbankInfo