Basingstoke Foodbank, a charity which provides emergency food packages and support to local people in crisis, has expanded to open six new centres across town and transform its services thanks to a major technology boost.
Before the pandemic, the volunteer-led Foodbank operated solely from one location – with users needing to collect physical vouchers to exchange for food parcels from one of the agencies which issued them.
This changed completely during lockdown, when to keep feeding local families, the Foodbank had to start working digitally. The charity began running a delivery service which, despite its challenges, enabled them to meet increased demand at a time when many people in the local community were unable to work.
After receiving a grant from Virgin Media O2’s Together Fund, which provided donations of £1,000 or more to 400 charities nationwide, the Basingstoke Foodbank was able to purchase new IT equipment – including new computers and printers which allowed it to expand to new locations, transforming its operations.
The new technology enabled them to use digital vouchers at a time when foodbank users couldn’t collect physical ones and helped connect staff at different sites.
As a result of this investment and quick action, agencies can now send digital vouchers directly to the Foodbank, helping users get help faster, reducing the risk of vouchers being lost and helping reduce waste.
The Foodbank now operates from six locations across the city, meaning users can access their service close to where they live. Digital vouchers are still in place – bringing even more benefit now multiple centres are in operation – and allowing the Foodbank to help even more local families in crisis.
Today, usage of the Foodbank is up two-fold on pre-pandemic levels as local people feel the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.
Nicola Green, Chief Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Officer at Virgin Media O2 said: “One year on from the launch of our Together Fund, it’s wonderful to see how charities up and down the country – including the Basingstoke Foodbank – have used our grants to drive meaningful, positive change in their communities.
“Whether it’s through supporting community groups, encouraging our people to spend five days a year volunteering or investing in programmes working to eradicate digital poverty, at Virgin Media O2, we’re committed to making our business better for people, communities and the planet.”
Phil Thomas, the Foodbank’s Chair of Trustees, said: “Like most organisations these days, we rely heavily on IT to operate.
“Virgin Media O2’s generosity enabled us to purchase IT equipment for our new centres, so that the Foodbank could successfully ‘go local’ and help people in need much closer to where they live. One year on, the new centres are working so well that an additional location will be opening in a few weeks’ time.”
In May, Virgin Media O2 launched their first sustainability strategy as a joint business, the Better Connections Plan, outlining its bold commitments to cut carbon, champion circularity, and support communities as it upgrades the UK. The business aims to support 1 million people through its employee volunteering programme, Take Five; help eradicate data poverty by connecting 1 million digitally excluded people across the UK; and equip 2 million people with the skills and tools to feel more connected to digital society by the end of 2025.
More information on how to support the Basingstoke Foodbank, whether through volunteering or donating, is here.