Foodbank by Saskia Coulson and Colin Tennant

Foodbank is an ongoing photographic project by Glasgow-based photographers Saskia Coulson and Colin Tennant which began in the summer of 2020.

A volunteer in the doorway of one of the many storerooms of the food bank.

In 2009, the Trussel Trust (the UK’s largest food bank charity) opened its first branch in Scotland. Ten years later The Scotsman reported that there were a staggering 52 food banks operating in Glasgow alone. It is clear that in Scotland, and across the UK, we are seeing an increase in food insecurity with serious consequences for the health and wellbeing of children and adults alike. This is not a new issue, but concerns have been brought into sharp focus as a result of the global pandemic, food supply issues in light of Brexit and threats posed by the economic downturn.

A volunteer preparing food parcels. Due to Covid restrictions food bank users are only allowed to come into the building one at a time to select their weekly shop.

It has been projected that six food parcels will be given out every minute in the UK from October to December this year.

This work-in-progress project documents a food bank in the East End of Glasgow. It captures everyday people who volunteer their time and resources to provide sustenance to those in need.

A volunteer chef prepares the takeaway soup to be given out to those waiting in line for groceries.
A volunteer stands outside the food bank with a collection of open cereal boxes, the food bank often receives strange donations.
A volunteer stands in a newly built storeroom which is due to store all the donations. Recent changes in the building operations mean the original storerooms are needing to be cleared for church activities. 

“We live less than 100 yards from our local food bank in the East End of Glasgow. We first got to know the volunteers who run the food bank when we started helping deliver food parcels during the first UK lockdown when COVID-19 hit. Although it had been operating for many years prior to pandemic. Both the food bank and the (pay what you can) cafe are run out of the same church and share many of the same passionate volunteers that are the heart and soul of all operations.

Through this work we seek to highlight the invaluable service food banks provide to local communities. The work aims to illustrate the power and importance of grassroots community organisations that support and help society’s most vulnerable but also question why more and more people are reliant on the resources provided by food banks.

Throughout the project, we have spoken to volunteers about the uncertainty that this charity, and many like it, face. In the wake of government support for COVID-19, many existing funding programmes have been slashed or seriously cut back, which has left charities with an uncertain future. Not only is there anxiety around what lies ahead but the charity is also having to change their operations to abide by strict safety measures, which are changing on a weekly basis. What was once a busy social hub for those less fortunate to receive a hot meal, weekly basic shop and often some well needed company has now become a regimented process of allowing people in on a one-by-one basis.” – Colin and Saskia.

A user waits to be allowed into the food bank, which now operates on a one in, one out basis.
Stacks of donations are stored in every available space.
A new volunteer stands outside the food bank, she has recently decided to help out as she studies for her degree online. 

In light of these restrictions and setbacks, this project seeks to represent the hard-working individuals who keep this food bank running and how they strive to make sure that this organisation can not only provide food for the community, but can also provide a place for comfort, companionship and compassion.

A volunteer stands in a storeroom of the foodbank. 
A Volunteer and user embrace. As well as providing food for those in need, the food bank is a safe, social space for those seeking comfort and company.

All photographs and text, © Colin Tennant and Saskia Coulson, 2020.

Find your closest foodbank here. Please consider donating to your local foodbank if you don’t already do so. Thanks – Document Scotland.

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