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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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)
- Pasta Sauces
- Sponge Pudding (tinned)
- Tomatoes (tinned)
- Rice Pudding (tinned)
- Tea bags/Instant Coffee
- Instant Mashed Potato
- Tinned meat/fish
- Tinned Fruit
- Cooking Oil
- Biscuits or Snack Bars
- 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.
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