The food bank has never been busier. The queue starts earlier every Thursday morning, and the phone never stops ringing throughout the week with new referrals and enquiries. One person tentatively rings to enquire about volunteer opportunities, but after a little chat, it turns out that she’s struggling financially. It’s food she really needs, she was just too embarrassed to say.
We’re in the bleakest of times and it’s difficult to feel hopeful about anything. But one ray of positivity is the growth of local community initiatives that help the food bank, the efforts of local people to make life that little bit easier for those in need.
One such initiative is the Earlsfield Local Leveller campaign, designed to redistribute the £400 energy rebate from the government – given to everyone – to those who need the money most. This was the idea of Earlsfield residents Steve Jones and Glyn Goodwin. Steve says that he got the idea the day the initiative was announced: “I was having a drink with friends that evening and we were all saying how it didn’t make much sense. We were all being given this money that none of us really needed. While at the same time others in our community were really struggling”.
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The Leveller campaign asks people to donate money – the whole £400 or a smaller amount – to the food bank. Money raised through this stream will be used to purchase pre-paid fuel vouchers, which will then be given to food bank guests, £100 at a time.
Julia, a guest, says that this fuel support will be invaluable. “It’s the energy bills I worry about most. I don’t put the oven on at all these days – just use the microwave and kettle. And I don’t dare put the heating on. We just sit in blankets every evening”.
Another incredible local community effort is the work of the Home Community Café, run by Meg Fry. Meg set up the café five years ago, as a social enterprise CIC, or community interest company. The café is located within St. Andrew’s church, where the food bank operates. It closes for business every Thursday when the food bank is open and serves a cooked breakfast for every guest whilst they wait for their food parcel. The café staff work for free on that day.