Verbatim helps innovative local Foodbank keep operational during Lockdown

By Nick East

July 8, 2020

Verbatim has been helping West Berks Foodbank keep vital services running despite increased demand and Coronovirus lockdown presenting huge logistical challenges.

Across the UK, during the first week of lockdown, 50,000 food parcels were distributed to people in need. This is almost double the usual volume of distribution. As the need continues to rise with a 107% increase in April (compared to April 2019), the (often elderly) volunteer numbers have dwindled as many have been forced to isolate. Our local foodbank branch, West Berks Foodbank, has experienced these struggles firsthand. Virtually overnight, their workforce went from 127  to just 16. However, West Berks Foodbank is no stranger to adversity and has gone above and beyond the call to action. 

How creative thinking saved West Berks Foodbank

The pandemic isn’t the first crisis West Berks Foodbank has overcome. In April 2016, due to budget cuts, they experienced a 70% decline in referrals. The branch was at risk of closure leaving the communities of Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford, Lambourn Valley, and Burghfield & Mortimer without foodbanks. Andrew Bruce, Trustee of West Berks Foodbank, had to think quickly and came up with an innovative solution: what if the foodbank itself became a referrer and clients could call ahead? This was a bold move. No other foodbank had done this before. He pushed forward with his idea and the foodbank swiftly implemented the U.K.’s first “Crisis Foodline”. 

Verbatim turns Crisis Foodline into a great success

The Crisis Foodline was a brilliant idea but was a massive undertaking. It was uncharted territory and the foodbank wasn’t sure how to keep the project alive. Shortly after launching, Andrew came to us with their unique problem. 

“It was with great relief that I found the conversation between the organisations focussed on how we could put together our Foodbank Solution with your call handling systems, and make them work well for both of us. I knew we were talking with people I wished to work with.”

-Andrew Bruce

With over 21 years of telephone answering experience, we knew exactly what to do. After deciding to move most of their administrative functions through us, we quickly put together call handling strategies and bespoke operational procedures. Within a matter of moments, we were up and running and accepting calls from people in crisis. Our call handlers have been praised by the foodbank for handling the wide range of calls we receive from their clients. From the straightforward and friendly to the highly challenging, we answer every call with care and professionalism. With our service by their side, we’ve enabled West Berks Foodbank to continue to provide emergency food parcels to the community.

West Berks Foodbank’s quick response to the pandemic

Just as before, the Foodbank’s team wasted no time and sprung into action. After closing all five of their foodbanks and two of their warehouses, they moved over 10 tonnes of stock into one large warehouse. They had to quickly rethink their food parcel distribution strategy. Before coronavirus, they were able to deliver parcels of groceries to schools for parents and children to pick up. As that was no longer an option, a new food delivery system straight from the warehouse was quickly developed and implemented. West Berks Foodbank moved mountains in three days with a severely reduced staff.

Verbatim praised for showing poise and understanding during the pandemic

When lockdown came on the 23rd of March, we didn’t miss a beat. We knew what was at stake and that the phone lines needed to be kept open. We’re no stranger to providing business continuity solutions, and since West Berks was already a client, we were able to provide immediate assistance.  We seamlessly moved our staff to work from home and maintained ongoing service for our clients. When the foodbank’s voucher system, location of operations, and delivery strategy changed, we effortlessly changed our call handling strategy. Our combined effort ensured a seamless transition and enabled the emergency food parcel deliveries to continue.

“In my dealings with you and all of your staff I have found everyone very friendly, helpful, cooperative, understanding, proficient, considerate and all have a desire to please and improve.”

-Andrew Bruce

Don’t delay, support your local foodbank

From NHS workers to children in need, your local foodbank is working around the clock to ensure no one in the U.K. goes hungry. There are many ways to support your local foodbank:

  1. Donate money
  2. Donate food
  3. Business partnership
  4. Volunteer

It’s been an absolute privilege to help out our local foodbank branch for the past four years. We continue to be amazed by the resiliency of their clientele and the foodbank itself. We do our best to answer phone calls from struggling locals with poise, empathy, and kindness. You can learn more about the amazing work they’re doing on their website.

We’re here to help

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you during this difficult time, please get in touch.

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