SLP, Friday 4th October
‘Foodbank Open’, read the sign at the entrance to St Paul’s Church in Tooting in September, as I was greeted by a team of friendly volunteers. People who week in, week out, dedicate their time to the Wandsworth Foodbank, which distributes food to local residents in need. One such resident was already there to collect their food package when I arrived, but he didn’t just have to get his food and go on his way. Far from it. He received not only a warm reception but was offered tea and toast, and a chance to have a chat. It is so important that people are able to use the foodbank in a dignified way – and that’s exactly what I saw on my recent visit. The church Reverend Sue Clarke and her team of volunteers are doing an inspirational job.
My most recent visit to St Paul’s saw only the end of the foodbank process - which starts with people like you. Local schools, churches, businesses and individuals collect food to donate, and as you may have seen when popping to Sainsbury’s, Waitrose or other local stores food is also collected at supermarket collections. The next step is for volunteers to sort the food donations and pack it into boxes ready to be given to people in need – each box contains three days worth of food. And how do people access a foodbank? They are issued with vouchers from care professionals such as doctors, social workers, health visitors and Citizens Advice Bureaux. They then bring their vouchers to a foodbank centre like the one in Wandsworth, which, since opening in May this year, has provided food to over 750 of our neighboours in need, including 300 children.
SLP readers will know from last week’s paper that the most common reasons for people being referred to foodbank were delays in benefit payments, benefit changes and families struggling to survive on a low income. It makes me so sad to think that in the 21st century, in one of the richest boroughs in London, one the richest cities in the world, many of our neighbours are still struggling to eat. That is why my visit was so bittersweet – despite this sadness it was amazing to see how communities can come together to support others in their time of need.
I have pledged to work with Wandsworth Foodbank to do what I can to support them – can you help too? They have four sites across Wandsworth, and many more across South London, and are always in need of donations. Visit their website for more information about how you can get involved: www.wandsworthfoodbank.org.uk.