Food banks provide emergency food to those in need and are springing up all over the UK. But there's one remarkable outfit operating in London on a shoestring budget, dependent on donations and volunteers on the street, with an incredibly practical, down-to-earth and realistic attitude shaping the vital service they provide.
London Street Food Bank volunteers collect unwanted and unsold food daily from shops in Westminster, the City, Hackney and Islington and try to get it to places where it can be useful. That could be direct to people on the streets gathering at the food bank or to projects working with vulnerable people, like the Hanbury Project in Shoreditch.
In their own words:
LSF serves up 100+ items of food on the street daily - which saves London councils money in waste pickups of food and dead starved bodies and companies money also for special coloured food waste bags. It is run by one ex-homeless, and two currently homeless distributors, along with a wider membership of varying interest in it. Also: We pick up after ourselves and others. Like wombles trying. Cleaning as we go.
The food bank knows its operating model is a challenge for grant-givers who want neat paperwork, business plans and committee meetings. They are upfront about their bad business model (use volunteers, give food away) and realise that using homeless volunteers (the best way to get food from LSF is to help move it around) means the paper trail is often non-existent.
But they know there's demand for what they do, and they want to expand. They'd like to have a city base with a street window, or perhaps set up a free indoor market. It would be nice if the hugely dedicated individuals running the bank could could get paid for it and be able to properly focus on making the whole thing bigger and better. But all that needs someone to tackle the admin and formalise the fundraising. They were previously refused charity status for having an income of less than £5,000 so currently they operate as a not-for-profit sole tradership and are totally open about their accounts. In fact, they just published their 'Current Assets Statement for Feb 2012' — the 'executive summary' says it all.
Could you help London Street Food Bank make sure 'no-one goes hungry in London' with donations of food, items from their Amazon wishlist, volunteer time, admin or charity expertise, storage space, or a big chunk of money? Email LondonStreetFoodBank@gmail.com.
Other food bank projects in London:
The Trussell Trust has foodbanks in Haringey, Hillingdon, Islington, Kingston, Norwood, Peckham, Tower Hamlets, Vauxhall, Westminster and Wimbledon, with foodbanks in development in Camden, Dagenham, Edmonton, Hackney, North Enfield, Waterloo, Woolwich. Trussell Trust food is largely donated by individuals and operated through church partners.
FareShare operates out of Bermondsey and Park Royal and works with community partners to distribute food boxes.
Foodcycle redirects food thrown out by retailers and turns it into nutritious meals, served in community centres and cafes (Station House, N4 and Pie in the Sky, Bromley by Bow) at an affordable price (e.g. main course £2.50).
Find out more: Listen to BBC Radio4's Food Programme on Foodbanks.