Pears Foundation’s partnership with the Trussell Trust Foodbank Network dates back to 2007, when the Network was just being established as a social franchise and the economic climate was very different. The Trussell Trust now operates the largest network of UK foodbanks, providing three days’ emergency food and support to people experiencing crisis.
We are pleased to welcome our guest blogger, Chris Mould, who led the Trussell Trust for ten years, standing down as Chairman in December 2016. He remains a trustee. Chris’s blog outlines the relationship Pears Foundation has had with Trussell Trust over the past 10 years, and the importance of long term core funding.
The Trussell Trust’s Foodbank Network gave out an extraordinary 1.2 million three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis last year. Since 2004 we have helped launch over 450 local foodbank organisations and today there are around 1,400 Trussell Trust foodbank centres across the length and breadth of the UK where people in need can get help. Everyone who comes to a Trussell Trust foodbank is referred by a professional such as a social worker, health visitor or schools liaison officer. Over 30,000 frontline professionals refer people to Trussell Trust foodbanks, and 50 percent are statutory agencies.
The Pears Foundation has been faithfully supporting us for years. It all began over lunch early in 2007. Back then few people in the UK had heard of foodbanks. We had launched no more than a handful of foodbanks to replicate our pioneering local project originally set up in Salisbury. And our fledgling Foodbank Network was providing fewer than 20,000 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis. But we had a vision. That’s what Trevor Pears and I were discussing. We believed, and still believe just as passionately, that if Salisbury needs a foodbank, every community should have one. How else could people in crisis get the help they so obviously need?
“This isn’t a lot, but it will help keep you and Jeremy in the game”. I’ve used Trevor’s words to me about the Foundation’s 2008 grant to challenge funders in places as diverse as Hong Kong, Serbia and the USA’s MidWest to recognize how crucial it is for grant makers to support core costs. And how foresighted too! Long term investment, shrewdly placed, pays off.
I’ve always looked forward to annual review meetings with the Pears team. They are no push over! That’s not the reason. Facts and figures matter. A lot. The dialogue and challenge are always testing. We go to the heart of the issue. Why doesn’t the Trussell Trust have a vision of foodbanks no longer being needed? What is the Trussell Trust going to do about the causes of the crises that drive demand? Is it really enough just to meet the emergency need, however well we do it? How is the Trussell Trust going to engage more effectively with policy makers?
But I always come away with fresh passion and at least one new strategic insight to build into our future plans. For example, we have built a strong track record of working with Universities to research and better understand our field of endeavour. The seed was originally sown at one of those review meetings.
Ten years on from that conversation over lunch, the Trussell Trust Foodbank Network has scaled up in an utterly remarkable way. Other good people, too, have joined with the challenge of tackling food poverty, setting up independent foodbank projects of their own. Today, we are truly close to being able to say that every community in the UK has a foodbank. The Trussell Trust Foodbank Network’s collective experience, our hugely important data sets and our research collaborations have enabled us to have at least some effect on policy and, perhaps more importantly, on its implementation.
Most important of all, the Trussell Trust Foodbank Network is still responding efficiently, effectively and wonderfully caringly when people are in crisis. The need continues to grow. It has not abated. The research tells us we can’t expect it to, anytime soon.