Lewisham food bank helping people struggling in the pandemic

By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter

A community initiative in Chinbrook has been feeding people struggling from food poverty throughout the pandemic.

The hyper-local initiative is funded by the Big Local programme, which focuses on areas of deprivation across the UK with a historic lack of investment.

Chinbrook Action Residents Team (ChART) looks into specific community initiatives that would benefit local residents.

Marie Griffin, community project manager with ChART, said: “It’s all about getting people involved and to take ownership of what happens in their local area.”

ChART’s Community Food Project was set up in late 2019 for those struggling with food poverty. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, it has quickly become one of ChART’s key services to the local community.

The food bank, located in the WG Grace Community Centre on the Chinbrook estate, started out running every two weeks, but has since changed to weekly.

The project, which also does a home delivery service for shielding elderly people, serves between 50 and 65 users per week.

But the number of people this Community Food Project actually helps is a lot higher.

Many people who use the service are from households they share with partners, children, grandchildren and other extended family.

With more than 100 people registered, numbers are expected to rise during the latest lockdown.

Marie, who joined ChART in September, was overwhelmed by the sense of community in the area.

“The local residents really care about each other. It feels like a little country village here – everybody knows each other and everybody is looking out for each other.

“Some of our volunteers have used a food bank themselves in the past and some just want to help the local community,” she said.

The initiative puts up few barriers for those who need to use it. There is no means test – residents just call up and get registered.

Marie said: “We don’t want to put up a huge barrier of asking them to fill in loads of forms and asking loads of questions because we don’t want to put people off.”

It’s also been surprising for the team who needs support.

“We’re aware of the fact that some people outwardly might look like they’re very prosperous, but the people living in food poverty is always surprising us.

“They could be people who are working, they could be people who have been furloughed.

“We’re not being judgemental – we just want to get the food out to people who need it.”

The initiative is also looking into offering a second food bank and more services to help local people.

But Marie said: “Our whole objective is that someday we’ll have nobody coming because food poverty will be solved.”

Pictured top: Food being bagged up at the food bank

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