Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Food Banks. AlternativeSE4 profile of We Care Lewishams independent food bank

THE NOT SO HIDDEN HUNGRY

More than 40% of households in Lewisham have an annual income of £15,000 or less.  More than 30% of children in New Cross and Deptford live in poverty.  The unemployment rate in Lewisham is around 10%.  More than 5% of Lewisham workers receive the minimum wage or less.  Homelessness is on the rise.  The numbers tell only part of the story.
Behind each number there is a human story of people in need.
Helping to bridge the gap is the We Care food bank on New Cross Road.
Ray Woolford of We Care is unequivocal about the reasons people are turning to the food bank for assistance, “Poverty, high rents, low wages and huge numbers are being sanctioned.”
“The people coming through our doors cut cross ethnic, age and gender lines as anyone through poor health or losing a job can end up needing our help.”
This view is supported by a report recently commissioned by the government as summarised by The Guardian:
“The researchers found that a combination of rising food prices, shrinking incomes, low pay and increasing personal debt meant an increasing number of families could not afford to buy sufficient food.
Benefits payment problems – either administrative errors that can leave claimants without cash for weeks, or the temporary withdrawal of benefits as a result of sanctions – are a factor in the increase in demand for food aid, the report says.”
As for Lewisham, “Over 60% of households are deprived in housing, education, health and/or employment,” according to the Institute for Economics and Peace.
Although the food bank receives individual donations it has actively built relationships with a wide variety of local businesses, organisations and enterprises to source food to hand out.
We Care food bank
Food bank users can collect up to ten items each week.
“We have regular collection from Waitrose Deptford four nights a week.  I wait at the store in the hope I can take away food they have not sold,” says Woolford.
“Sainsbury’s allow us twice a year to collect food from the store in New Cross. The next weekend we are in-store is 26 April for two days.  Sainsbury’s give us space to ask for food from customers who donate items bought in the store.”
“New Cross Scouts, the Stephen Lawrence Trust and local schools and churches all support We Care with donations and collections, mainly at Christmas.”
We Care opened its doors in September 2012 and claims to have registered over 1,000 families as users of the food bank.
Woolford adds, “We get around 20 new families a week and have to turn away people from across the city as we do not have the food to feed all of London.”
Some talk about the hidden hungry.  A visit to We Care food bank on New Cross Road shows that the hungry are anything but hidden.
More information about We Care food bank online at lewishamfoodbank.com
Statistics sources:
- Lewisham Strategic Housing Market Assessment – Executive Summary 2009
- Lewisham Council Housing Options Centre
- Office for National Statistics – Local Labour Market Indicators by Unitary and Local Authority (Report: February 2014)
- Trust for London and New Policy Institute

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