So today we encountered first hand the process of a food bank; from start until finish we made vigorous notes and were kept busy as well as welcomed and entertained by staff. This post is simply going to describe the steps we went through on our first visit to the food bank as ethnographers. Upon arrival we were greeted by an elderly man (a volunteer) who informed us the group were just finishing up their team brief and that Geoff* the event coordinator would be with us shortly. When the team brief had finished we were welcomed into the main hall and introduced to a bunch of volunteers, at this point all of the volunteers were preparing and setting up for the day ahead. It seemed that each volunteer had a task to do and they all just got on with it. Straight away myself and Chelsey felt very at ease and comfortable which made the whole process of starting the ethnography a little easier. We both took a seat in the main hall at the side so we could observe all areas.We were informed by Geoff* that the weather effects the amount of clients that visit the food bank and that today may be a quiet day due to bad weather. Upon glancing around the vicinity we noticed that the organisation supplied more than just food; there were baby car seats and prams as well as boxes filled with children’s clothes that an outside organisation had donated. Geoff* notified us that they were extremely grateful for the larger donations, however they had limited space to store larger
We also recognised the layout of the organisation which comprised of a reception desk at the front then four other tables. The reception desk was the first point of entry where Geoff* welcomed clients and had a brief chat with them before seating them with a volunteer to discuss their food plan and to have a general chat about any problems/issues they wanted to open up about. We were also told that it was predominately mothers with children that visited the food bank and on this day the first client to walk through the door was a mother and baby. Geoff* approached the mother and baby in a very friendly and approachable manner as it seemed the mother was quite upset and appeared to be crying. Geoff* maintained being positive towards the mother to try and cheer her up. From this we noticed that their seemed to be an almost counselling service on offer for clients to discuss problems they were experiencing. Each client has to present Geoff* with a voucher; the voucher is given to clients by referral from local authorities, doctors, job centres and schools. Geoff* sat down with the mother and talked through what seemed like a check list of what she needs. (We later got hold of one of these forms and it held the details of the client and a list of food/toiletries that each client may need).
From this the volunteer in charge of ‘packing’ took the list and began the packing process. Geoff* then suggested that myself and Chelsey split up into areas; I went into the packing room and Chelsey sat down with a volunteer and the client to discuss any issues or if there were no issues then just a general chat. When the food was packed and ready to go, clients had to sign the check list and that was the process pretty much complete. Myself and Chelsey spent the rest of the session swapping roles and discussing our notes in between.
When the session was over Geoff* politely thanked us for our work and told us they were just going to have their end of session briefing before going home. We thanked Geoff* and all of the volunteers and told them we would be coming along next week also. We then headed home to make notes and plan our assignment as we now had material to go off.