Lending a Hande
Each month we’re going to be turning the spotlight on some amazing people from our local community in South London. We’ve been blown away by the projects we’ve seen and some of the folks we’ve met on our travels.
We’re planning to talk to a broad range of different people, from creatives using their art to help others, to volunteers, activists, social enterprises and startups. If you have a suggestion for our next feature, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our very first Hande heroes are the amazing team running the Vauxhall foodbank. A service that can be a lifeline for those that use it.
One in five people in the UK live below the poverty line, and foodbank use in the UK is up across the board as the lockdown has plunged people in to difficult financial situations. The Trussell Trust, a charity that runs foodbanks nationwide, saw an 89% increase in usage in April 2020 compared to the same month in 2019. It’s a troubling figure.
Foodbanks are often seen as a symbol of a broken society. And in many ways that is true. It’s not controversial to say that foodbanks should absolutely not have to exist in a healthy, modern Britain.
But when you see the passion and dedication of the volunteers, the Vauxhall foodbank is perhaps better understood as a symbol of human kindness, of how our society can come together in times of need to help others. There may be desperation in turning to a foodbank, but there is hope there too.
The Vauxhall team recently took on the mammoth task of merging the operations for Norwood, Brixton and Waterloo foodbanks. A task that would be daunting at the best of times, never mind whilst in lockdown and experiencing an unprecedented high demand
Seeing the foodbank in full flow is seriously impressive. There’s a military precision in the way the goods are sorted, packaged and delivered. No one can visit the foodbank whilst London remains locked down, so everything has to be delivered. The logistics are complex, and the foodbank relies entirely on the kindness of volunteers giving their time and expertise for free.
Suzie Ellis is one of the project coordinators, she told us that on any given day there’s a team of roughly 60-65 volunteers on site - people packing parcels, drivers delivering, and a team that sort incoming donations and keep the warehouse clean, as well as a warehouse manager. It's a big operation, she says. That feels like an understatement.
Suzie estimates that they have around 200 volunteers signed up and working in shifts. It’s a significant workforce for any company.
The sheer amount of goods that pass through the doors is staggering. Suzie tells us that they are currently distributing 1.5 - 2 tons per day, averaging around 40 tons per month. This means they are able to deliver 400 parcels per week, feeding 1,000 people.
How you can help
To keep delivering this volume of goods, the foodbank is reliant on the kindness of the local community through donations. Suzie told us supermarket deliveries direct to the warehouse are the easiest and most valuable way people can help. They are also accepting drop offs to one of the permanent collection points in supermarkets around Lambeth. Details of all of the drop off points and the warehouse address are here.
If you’re considering donating, the foodbank is particularly in need of:
- UHT milk
- Tinned meat
- Rice pudding
- Sponge pudding
- Toilet roll!
We are in awe of the team at Vauxhall and we’re helping in our own way by keeping them supplied with hand sanitiser to keep the volunteers safe.
To read more about their vital work, visit their website: https://vauxhall.foodbank.org.uk/
Photo credit: Eleanor Bentall - www.eleanorbentall.com