Greenwich Food Bank

On a day when I sit writing this post in two dressing gowns, fingerless gloves, a blanket and hat (no, really…) my mind is drawn back to last night when I was in the West End and saw a shocking number of people sleeping rough in the snow. And in turn that me brought to a number of emails I’ve been getting about Greenwich Food Bank, since I first mentioned it a couple of months ago.

What happened? At what point did the concept of food banks, where ordinary, everyday folk become reliant on others’ charity just to be able to feed themselves properly, become ‘normal?’ And at what point did the situation in Greenwich become so bad that we need one ourselves? There are currently three distrubution centres in the borough – Thamesmead, Plumstead and Woolwich – but they’re planning five more, including, somewhat shockingly the ‘affluent’ areas of West Greenwich and Westcombe Park.

Don’t get me wrong – I am hugely impressed at the generosity and dedication of everyone involved – both volunteers and donors – but I find it very distressing that it’s needed, that so many people are slipping through the net, and that instead of hanging their heads in shame, central government seem to think its perfectly okay.

Local government, in cash-strapped times, at least appears to be doing what it can – Greenwich Council have provided somewhere to be the central warehouse. But ultimately it’s slipping back to Victorian times as far as I can see. Who knows – give it a few months and the New Heart of East Greenwich could  be hurriedly remodelled back to its 19th Century alias as the local Workhouse…

Soapbox aside, this is what we have, and it is a Good Thing, given that central government is not recognising the distress of so many. I applaud the efforts of the combined churches, I applaud the people who buy a few extra items each week to donate to the cause and I applaud the (so far) 60-70 volunteers who are working in the depots to process the items.

Carol’s been donating food to the bank for some time – she gives money to charities, but “somehow actually buying a few extra bits and pieces each week as I do the grocery shopping and taking them along to the Avery Hill Food Bank makes giving more ‘real’, i.e. making the effort to buy stuff, take it there when it’s open, walking past those people waiting to obtain food.”

I know what she means. I’m old enough to remember when the annual Blue Peter appeal involved collecting ‘stuff’ – milk bottle tops, plastic bottles, old woollies etc. which always felt much more hands-on and inspiring than just ‘send us your cash.’

The strange thing is that it’s not easy to find out online how to actually get involved in the project, which is a shame – individual churches seem to have their own systems, but if you’re just a bog-standard nice person who wants to join in, information’s thin on the ground – Capability Bowes had to email them to find out and he still didn’t get a straight answer.

But Mike’s filled me in.  People can take stuff to a collection point at the reception of St John’s Church, in Stratheden Road near Blackheath Standard, which is usually open from 9.30am to 4pm. Alternately anyone wishing to donate food can call 07771 830549 or email contact@greenwichfoodbank.co.uk.

There is also a collection point in Sainsburys Woolwich – hopefully this is something that other supermarkets will pick up on, like the little Cats Protection League box of Tins for Poor Cats in the Tellytubby Sainsburys on the Peninsula (I always pop a can or two in there – when I remember, blush…)

There is a ‘shopping list’ of suitable foodstuffs for the human version:

  • Milk (UHT or powdered)
  • Sugar (500g)
  • Fruit Juice (carton)
  • Soup
  • Pasta Sauces
  • Sponge Pudding (tinned)
  • Tomatoes (tinned)
  • Cereals
  • Rice Pudding (tinned)
  • Tea bags/Instant Coffee
  • Instant Mashed Potato
  • Rice/Pasta
  • Tinned meat/fish
  • Tinned Fruit
  • Cooking Oil
  • Jam
  • Biscuits or Snack Bars
  • Toiletries
  • Baby Milk (powdered)
  • Baby Food (tinned or bottled)

In a twenty-first century world that has come back down to cold charity it is up to us to fill a gap that should never have opened.


the attachments to this post:

comic sans list
comic sans list

greenwich food bank
greenwich food bank


19 Comments to “Greenwich Food Bank”

  1. Neil says:

    How utterly depressing. Thanks for passing on the details, though.

  2. Benedict says:

    Yep it is a sad state of affairs. From experience here (Canada) the client list of foodbanks is incredibly varied. One of the main problems has come from people working on minimum wage and not being able to get into subsidised housing, which then means that once rent and utilities are paid for they are left with around £5 a day to live on. Here is a link to DailyBread Toronto with a short video explaining “who what and why”. I suspect that the issues in Greenwich are very similar to those here.
    http://www.dailybread.ca/learning-centre/whos-hungry-2012/

  3. Richard says:

    Maybe the left should have been a little less opposed to GM food technologies? The price of protein will keep keep rising and real incomes will keep falling so I guess this problem will intensify. At some point this will hopefully cause a proper rethink as to how tax payers’ money is spent so that some of the most protected groups in our society (basically the over 60s)will start to lose their insane benefits and tax breaks.

  4. Hayley says:

    Wow. This makes me feel sick. I’d heard of their rise in the borough but the sudden expansion is frightening. Thank you for posting the list. I had known you could put things for collection at Sainsbury’s but I never knew what to buy. I will now make sure I buy regularly from it. I just can’t believe it’s come to this. You’re quite right: the gap that should never have opened.

  5. Perhaps Sainsburys could put a list over the collection point?

    But yes – that this needs to happen at all is a sad indictment on what the 21st Century has become.

  6. Dave says:

    And perhaps we could have a collection for Richard’s therapy sessions

  7. Capability Bowes says:

    @ Richard. Yes, you have an opinion but this is not the forum for it please. Phant runs a politically neutral site – I have read along for over two years and I dont think I have ever seen a political opinion expressed. I would suggest that, regardless of your personal politics, you actually go along to the Foodbank and make a donation or spend a couple of hours volunteering there and hopefully this will knock you off your political high horse and teach you a bit of much needed (IMO) humility.

    Thank you Phant, for posting this article. You would have thought that Foodbank would be so keen to get publicity for its work that they would send out emails that people could actually understand!

  8. Richard says:

    “and that instead of hanging their heads in shame, central government seem to think its perfectly okay.”

    @Capability is this your definition of neutrality or in some way not an expression of a political view? I was simply trying to correct what I perceive to be as the Phant’s misunderstanding. I am sure that her skin isnt so thin as you suggest, otherwise why would she run a blog and ask for public comment?

  9. Jodie says:

    Does anyone know where the Thamesmead Food Bank is located?

  10. Vic says:

    Does anyone know what criteria people have to meet to claim their free food? Do they have to be referred by a govt agency or do they just turn up? Genuinely interested.

    Personally, I don’t find the willingness of people to give charitably to those in need at a time of deep financial crisis depressing. I find it heart warming. Charity has a vital role to play in all societies as there will always be some who fall through the gaps. Having been homeless & completely income free myself I know this only too well. Sometimes local communities have more of a role to play than central govt and we should be proud that many take that role seriously.

  11. Stella says:

    Vic – I have looked into this – the generic term ‘Foodbank’ in fact is usually a ‘social franchise’ – The Trussell Trust.Franchisees (they must be Christian churches),pay the Trust £1,500 pounds to join and £360 annual membership. This entitles them to wear their logo – embellished clothing,and be taught how to receive donations and give them out again.The foodbanks issue vouchers to social workers, doctors, health visitors etc, who then have to decide who deserves the free food.People are entitled to a maximum of 3 vouchers in any 6 month period – which can be exchanged for a bag of non-perishable food to last them for three days. I emailed the Trust last week, asking what people were supposed to do, if they had already had their 3 vouchers, but their situation remained as dire – they haven’t replied yet.No doubt there are other people running foodbanks in this country, but the ones getting all the publicity are run by the Trussell Trust – they have nearly 300 nationwide,and say they are opening 3 new ones a week.

  12. Franklin says:

    Don’t feed the troll, CB.

  13. Capability Bowes says:

    The troll is lucky that people will throw him food rather than him having to go collect it from a Food Bank.

  14. Emile says:

    Hi, I happened across this and as I know a couple who are involved in the Greenwich Foodbank I thought I would add my two pennies worth. Yes, it is a Christian organisation with a Christian ethos. Having said that there are people involved (moi for one) who are not Christian. I think thay welcome anyone who truly wants to help. Anyway what’s wrong with being Christian – where would we be without the like of Wilberforce etc.

    The Foodbank has been active in Thamesmead for sometime but it’s a long way away if you live in the far west of Greenwich. I think the plan is to open branches in other places to improve access to the rest of Greenwich. But if you can get to Thamesmead you are welcome. You need a voucher though which is given out by social services or the Job Centre. It is only a short term fix to help while other things are being sorted out.

    I think I got this right and hope it helps.

  15. Stella says:

    Emile there is nothing wrong with being a Christian, I merely commented that all the Trussell Trust foodbanks have to be set-up in churches – I’m sure they would be happy to have volunteers of any religion….or none, but they do say that they will only set them up in churches to enable Christians to engage in social action.
    Today I received the following reply to my email – I had queried the ’3 vouchers in any 6 month period’ rule,which had been mentioned on the Today programme,by the Bishop of Liverpool.It clarifies things a bit better.I also found the following an interesting piece of research:
    http://www.trusselltrust.org/resources/documents/Ourwork/Lambie-(2011)-The-Trussell-Trust-Foodbank-Network—Exploring-the-Growth-of-Foodbanks-Across-the-UK.pdf

    Here is the reply to my enquiry:

    A client can receive up to 3 foodbank vouchers consecutively which will give them a minimum of 9 days’ worth of food. For most situations this should be a sufficient period of time for other measures to be put in place to help resolve the underlying situation and prevent people needing to rely on the foodbank further.

    However, we do appreciate that in some circumstances it may take longer than this in which case foodbanks are willing to support clients with additional vouchers but at this point our foodbanks will start talking to the referral agency who is sending the client to find out why it is taking longer and ensure that everything possible is being done to support the client and help resolve their situation.

    This policy is not set within a specific time frame (e.g. 6 months) as we recognise that a person may experience two or more different crises within a short period of time and foodbanks need to step in and support them in the short term. We would hope that people wouldn’t need to keep coming back to foodbanks every few months as our ultimate aim is to help people develop sustainable livelihoods where they can better weather crisis situations on their own in the future. However, until they are able to do this then the foodbank is there to step in and help, providing people have been properly referred by an appropriate agency who can verify that their situation is genuine.

  16. Dave says:

    Welcome back to the workhouse mentality

    ie The deserving poor as as opposed to the others

  17. John from Plumstead says:

    It’s a sad state of affairs that these food banks are on the increase but donating or better still helping out is a really positive way of helping out less well off families during, hopefully short term, hard times. What with supermarket BOGOF offers, I might as well donate the extra item as I invariably through it in the bin when it goes out of date anyway.

  18. As you sat writing in two dressing gowns, fingerless gloves, hat and blanket about the ‘seemingly’ sad normalisation of foodbanks emerging at an alarming rate in the UK (the world’s 5th richest country!) I’ll not be surprised if a there was also a tear or two. On my walks around south east london with my well-loved and cared for dog customers I always take time to talk and spare what little change or food I have with the homeless (not all of who are out of their minds on drink/drugs) but who but for the grace of god could be any of us in the future. Thanks for your great blog phantom – it helps to keep our eyes and hearts open.

  19. Justine says:

    Thank you Phantom – food for thought indeed. Does anyone know which churches in west Greenwich are collecting?

    Thanks