Our Food Bank mission

By Gagandeep Virdi

I think Envision empowers you to do your best.

I’ve lived in Handsworth all my life and there’s always been a lot of poverty. Most of my friends feel embarrassed to come from here because a lot of people think it’s a bit of a dump. I wanted to change that so that we can all feel proud to live here. When I heard about Envision, it was an opportunity to do something positive. I wanted the community to pull together to help the people in Handsworth who are living in poverty.  

We started out doing a questionnaire with local residents about poverty in the area. One of the questions we asked was “If you had the chance to help fight it, would you?” And everyone we asked said yes. We realised that it wasn’t that people didn’t care, it was just that they didn’t know how to help.  

We decided to get everyone involved by asking them to support a new food bank that had opened. We particularly wanted to involve other young people, so we co-ordinated a series of assemblies in local colleges. In the assemblies, we explained how poverty affects Handsworth, and we asked each person to donate at least one food item to the food bank.

Doing the assemblies made us much more confident at public speaking. We also learnt how to be persuasive, both in our language, and by using different techniques. One thing we did was used an incentive – we set a challenge between colleges where they competed against each other to donate the most food, and gave out prizes to the people who did the best.

We were so taken aback by the quantity of food we got. We filled entire vans! It was so motivating and just spurred us on to try even harder. We decided to organise community fundraisers like bake sales where we could educate people about local poverty as well as raising funds. 

With the money we got from those, we could buy cheap tinned food in bulk. We were all so proud of the total amount of items we collected to donate.

The moment when we donated the food felt amazing. We had been so busy that everything happened so fast, so we didn’t fully realise how well we’d done until then.

I think at the start, we were like 'we’ll join Envision, it will be a bit of fun' but then when we were carrying crates of food we realised we’ve actually achieved something really big. I took a picture on my phone and you can see proper happiness on everyone’s faces.

We did shifts at the food bank afterwards and it was really cool because most of the food there was ours. So to pack it for people who needed it, and give it to them felt really good. Families came in with little kids and we knew that we’d really contributed towards something that’s basically a lifeline for them.

The best part was that it was all us. Nobody told us what to do, or how to do it. I remember that being a bit scary at the start – I’d never been in control of something as normally teachers or adults are involved. But it’s given me self-belief that I can do new things. I think lots of people are held back because they don’t believe in themselves.

I think everyone should try and do a project to help their community. My older sister was saying that she wished she’d done Envision, and I was like ‘you can still do stuff! You don’t have be on a programme to get involved!’

A lot of people say they don’t have the time. But I think that if you set your mind to something and you’re very passionate, you’ll get things done, no matter what.