In her spare time, our Live reporter Lauren Taylor is on the board of Cfine. Here, she explains why she decided to get involved.
I have always wanted to help people. It’s the reason I became a journalist in the first place – to make real change.
In August last year, I became a trustee for Community Food Initiatives North East (Cfine).
After I graduated in the midst of a global pandemic, I felt pretty lost. It was a scary time for everyone, and ultimately I wanted to help in any way I could.
My fourth year at university was cut short and I, like many others, was forced to give up my normality.
Well, university didn’t just stop I had to finish the last of my assignments, one of which was an investigative project. My group had decided to look at food waste in the hospitality industry and whether more could be done to tackle food poverty in Aberdeen.
That is when I properly became aware of Cfine. Previously, I thought it was just a food bank – I was so wrong.
Cfine ramped up efforts during lockdown
Although there has always been poverty in Aberdeen, the pandemic forced more families and individuals towards crisis points, leaving them in need of emergency food. That’s where Cfine stepped in.
In April 2020 alone, Cfine delivered 5,720 emergency food parcels to those facing a crisis – the equivalent of 163,431 meals.
The organisation also delivered 100 tonnes of surplus food through FareShare Grampian to their network, which equated to 238,000 meals.
Their Fruit Mart based in Peterhead also delivered 420 emergency food parcels to families and individuals in Aberdeenshire. Meanwhile, 160 individuals struggling to navigate the welfare system were given support.
I can remember reading this information and being blown away. I hadn’t realised how big a role Cfine played in the community, never mind how vital a service they would end up becoming throughout lockdown.
But, it also made me angry to learn that so many people were hungry and relying on food banks, and not just throughout the pandemic. It just seemed so unfair and so wrong in the 21st century that people were not able to provide themselves with the essentials.
I followed Cfine’s work closely on social media, even after our project was long-finished. Soon after I graduated, they advertised that they were looking for a new board member.
At first, I thought I wouldn’t be experienced enough. I gave myself plenty of reasons why I couldn’t do it.
But, when I thought about how much respect for Cfine I had and how good an opportunity it would be to really help people in a crisis, I decided to put myself forward.
I wanted to utilise the skills I had learned from university and my other volunteering roles to do something to help my community in a time of need.
The work they do is overwhelming
I may be the youngest member on the board currently, but I have enjoyed my experience and working alongside like-minded individuals who want to help end poverty.
I have learned so much throughout the last year. At first it was overwhelming to see the sheer scale of Cfine’s operation.
As well as delivering emergency food parcels I discovered they educate people on healthy and affordable eating, and provide others with benefit and welfare support.
They also run a warehouse skills development programme to help people pursue a different career and offer volunteering opportunities to give people the work experience they need.
Cfine also sells a fruit and vegetable box as part of their social enterprise among so many other projects.
When I found out that the Press and Journal, Evening Express and Original 106 were teaming up with Cfine for The Big Christmas Food Appeal, I was delighted.
We’re working to raise awareness of the plight people across Grampian and the Highlands face every week and dispel some of the myths surrounding foodbanks, while encouraging readers to do what they can to help.
After just over a year of working with Cfine, I’ve come to realise that the north-east is a close-knit community, and together we can make sure everyone enjoys their Christmas this year.