The East Elmbridge Foodbank is a major community resource, reliant on donations from the public and predominantly run by volunteers. Here, Project Manager Jenny French explains how the service has been impacted by Covid and the ways in which our community can support them, right now.
How does the East Elmbridge Foodbank operate?
We gather food and essential household items from supermarkets and street collections, we also purchase bulk supplies, and get some bulk supplies donated to us for our food boxes. Once the goods arrive at East Elmbridge Foodbank, our dedicated team of volunteers check them. They pack boxes for single people, couples, families and large families. These boxes are then delivered by another team of volunteers. It’s a huge operation!
How has the Foodbank had to adapt during the pandemic?
When the crisis first hit, we were holding a couple of pop-in sessions every week, one in
West Molesey and one in Esher. Clients would come along to us with their vouchers in exchange for food. We had to change our service completely, when Covid restrictions came in, and we now deliver food boxes once a week to anybody referred to us through the various agencies.
Has there been an increase in need?
Yes, there has. At the beginning of the lockdown we had a huge influx of people needing the service because they’d lost their income, and in that initial period our client numbers were four to five times the normal levels. The numbers tailed off slightly over the summer as universal credit, or other support came into effect, but we’re starting to see an increase again. We’re anticipating a higher demand as furlough ends and there are further job losses.
What are the challenges around the Christmas period?
In one sense, the time of year doesn’t make a huge difference to the service we provide, people need to eat every week of the year. Our clients get a box of Christmas festive goods when the holidays arrive but there’s a lot of weeks between now and Christmas, and we need to keep doing what we’ve been doing since the beginning of lockdown.
What can our community do to support the East Elmbridge Foodbank?
We rely heavily on donated long-life food items and other essential household items. However, we’ve seen a vast reduction in what we’re receiving because people are switching their shopping habits, no longer going into supermarkets and dropping the odd item in the collection baskets in Waitrose or Tesco. So, we’re asking our community to please continue to drop off food donations, as they did before, in the stores. We’re also encouraging those who started them, to keep going with their street collections – in the height of lockdown they were absolutely fantastic! We have a number of streets who are still collecting, some great ones in Thames Ditton in particular, but as people have returned to work other collections have slowed down or stopped.
How can someone start a street collection?
If one person in the street could put out a message about the collection and provide a box in a safe dry place, the rest of the street can donate items at their convenience. The collection can then be dropped off with us at the centre. We’re open four days a week, so please check out the website for the best way to do this.
Visit East Elmbridge Foodbank for more information.