Features | 02 Jul 2024

The Trussell Trust: Telling the stories behind the statistics

As a partner to the Trussell Trust since 2021, Vodafone attended the charity’s ‘Pathways for Change’ event to hear how the anti-poverty charity’s work goes so much further than just the facts and figures.

“It’s not just numbers. These are individual people with individual stories.”

Steve, one of the Trussell Trust’s lived experience partners, was referencing an 8 x 1.35 metre-long artwork created for the charity’s ‘Pathways for Change’ exhibition at OXO Tower Wharf on 12 June 2024.

The piece in question is made up of 3.1 million green dots, each representing an emergency food parcel distributed by food banks in the Trussell Trust network over the course of just one year.

“We don’t just want to give them a parcel and send them on their way. We want to help them get back on their feet.”

It is the largest number of parcels ever distributed in such a time frame, and it’s almost double the amount needed only five years ago. But, as Steve says, this is about more than just numbers.

“We don’t just want to give them a parcel and send them on their way,” says Steve, who is currently a food bank volunteer after previously needing the support of the services himself. “We want to help them get back on their feet.”

“People’s stories are so important, but so many of them feel unheard”

This message of hope was one that tied together the various exhibitions on show during the event, attended by supporters, partners and employees of the Trussell Trust, including representatives from some of the food banks in its network.

“Things are really hard in the network, but I do really believe that there is hope,” says Danni Malone, the Trussell Trust’s Director of Network Programmes and Innovation. “We’ve seen some great wins. For instance, 80% of food banks in our network are now offering advice and support on money matters, helping to put more money directly into people’s pockets.”

This is a good reminder that, despite the Trussell Trust supporting a nationwide network of more than 1,400 food bank centres, it is not just emergency food that is offered to people when they walk through the door.

People also receive practical support for all sorts of situations, from health or wellbeing challenges to a lack of digital connectivity – the latter being supported by Vodafone through its everyone.connected programme.

Vodafone SIMs are loaded with:
40 GB of data
plus free
UK texts + calls
every month, for six months

All of which, of course, comes with a cup of tea and a chat.

“People’s stories are so important, but so many of them feel unheard,” says Malone. “For many people, the food bank is the first place where they’re treated with dignity and compassion. Volunteers offer a listening ear, and this often helps uncover the root cause of their issue, so we can better signpost them to the specialist support they need.”

“Volunteers are the last line of defence”

The power of storytelling is a theme that continues to run through ‘Twelve’, a collection of portraits featuring Blackburn-based food bank volunteers, captured by local photographer John Harrison.

A project that began with semi-structured sit-down interviews now sees the visual portraits paired with personal stories of each participant.

“When you take a full interview of several pages,” explains Harrison, “and you home in on just a few words or sentences, you acquire this incredibly powerful textual vignette.

Images and text from John Harrison's 'Twelve' collection. CREDIT: Richard Haydon
Images and text from John Harrison's 'Twelve' collection. CREDIT: Richard Haydon

“It encapsulates the essence of where that person is coming from, and the impact they feel they are having on the most vulnerable people.”

With a firm focus on the experiences and motivations of these volunteers, who provide support on a daily basis, the series will officially be launched in July at the National Festival of Making.

“Volunteers are the last line of defence,” concludes John. “These magical, wonderful people who give their time for free, for no reward, no credit, no plaudits, day after day.”

“It empowers you to have a voice for those people”

For Operations Manager Gill Fourie, however – who leads a team of 60-plus volunteers at the Blackburn Foodbank – the volunteers get a lot out of the experience too:

“Our volunteers feel empowered by the support they can give people who come to our food bank. They are passionate about helping people experiencing hardship.”

While the reciprocal nature of this relationship helps create a feel-good atmosphere within the food bank itself, it doesn’t hide the difficulty these volunteers have when it comes to reacting to the impact of external events.

“Seeing your daughter on a screen in front of you – when you’re stuck in a care home where you don’t really want to be – it changes your life.”

The last few years have undoubtedly been some of the most challenging, with global conflicts and climate-related events contributing to a cost-of-living crisis that has caused hunger to rise sharply in recent years.

Currently, one-in-seven people in the UK experience hunger. Meanwhile, earlier this year, more than half of families receiving Universal Credit ran out of food before the end of the month and couldn’t afford more.

In turn, many people are forced to make extremely difficult decisions because they simply do not have the money for the essentials we all need to survive.

“Giving him connectivity helped reduce that social isolation”

As a result, connectivity – in the form of a mobile phone and an internet connection – can often take a back seat. Which is why Vodafone works with the Trussell Trust to provide free connectivity to people who are receiving support from the charity’s food bank network.

“We’ve had the Vodafone SIM cards now for between 18 months and two years,” says Fourie, “and they are absolutely fantastic. You can’t imagine the relief people get from having a SIM card.”

Vodafone has suppported approximately

through its partnership with the Trussell Trust
180,000 people

Committed to helping four million people and businesses cross the digital divide by the end of 2025, Vodafone has already supported 2.6 million, with more than half of that through the provision of free connectivity.

The impact of which cannot be measured simply by the numbers, however.

“We had one man in a care home who could not get in touch with his daughter because he didn’t have a phone or SIM card. Giving him connectivity helped reduce that social isolation straight away.

“Seeing your daughter on a screen in front of you – when you’re stuck in a care home where you don’t really want to be – it changes your life.”

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