Back in October last year I went to see I, Daniel Blake at The Tyneside Cinema and even though I’d been warned it was powerful stuff I wasn’t prepared for such a mixture of emotions.  It had everything – drama, distress, unfairness, honesty and humour and even though it was a ‘story’ the underlying message was clear that this is happening in real life.  It didn’t seem possible in this day and age that people genuinely needed help from food banks as we’ve been fed a constant drip of scroungers, benefit cheats from TV and newspapers over the years.

It shook me and I was delighted when NUFC Fans Food Bank formed in conjunction with West End Food Bank and started collections, pre-match at SJP.  The response was amazing and the donations of food or cash were just huge but the interest and concern was something else.  It wasn’t so much what you could afford but more that you cared enough and every donation was received so gratefully.

I did worry about the close season and how I could continue to help so I was delighted to hear about the NUFC Fans Food Bank donation point in the Grainger Market and I was keen to volunteer my help whenever I could.  I’m so glad I did and the rewards of meeting so many from all walks of life reinstated my belief in people and the enthusiasm, desire to help, and good old-fashioned care is so evident.

I’ve become disillusioned with some international/national charities in recent years and often wondered how far any donation I made went towards the intended recipients.  Instead I concentrated on local ones such as the SBR Foundation and groups such as Gallowgate Flags and now the food bank – you can see where every penny goes from valuable feedback. With the food bank you just know that every tin of tomatoes, jar of coffee or packet of tea will go exactly where it’s needed.

I explained to my mum, who is very old, that I was helping out at a food bank and she wouldn’t believe me at first.  I think I distressed her a bit but she then told me about how she remembers her mum going out to find food parcels when she was little and my mum was shocked to find out this is happening in 2017.

My blood boiled when a Tory MP recently expressed delight that food banks were available – of course you are, it takes away the need for an additional layer of government funding to feed hungry families.  Lovely people who already pay taxes and other contributions, people who possibly can’t afford it, are giving additionally because they care about people and the government simply don’t.

To finish on a good note, I’ve been at the NUFC Fans Food Bank following the appeal for more food or cash donations as stocks were running so low and the response was overwhelming, to the point that we were in danger of disappearing amongst crates or knee deep in bags.  I have to say the local newspapers/radio/TV have really played their part in raising awareness of the shortages and many local businesses have dropped by with amazing contributions.  It’s not so grim up North.

Pat Hughes – Follow Pat on @Patrici41233130