Charity special: Tower Hamlets Foodbank

By Rob Virtue on December 11, 2012 2:41 PM |

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Tower Hamlets Foodbank was started two years ago with the aim of providing food hampers to the thousands of people in need in the borough.

It runs collections such as that at Waitrose in Canary Wharf last week, which see the public donate goods destined for those highlighted as in need by social workers or charities such as the Salvation Army.

Founder Denise Bentley said after a successful first year, the charity really took off this summer.

"I don't know if it was the Olympics and watching the volunteers there but people seemed to want to help," she said. "They said 'if it's hard for them, what's it like for people really in need?'

"So our warehouse which is 2,200 sq ft was full. However, demand has really gone up so it was much needed."

Such is the severe poverty of some in the borough, there's been talk of people in the East End being moved to Wales, and Denise has seen this first hand.

Problems receiving benefits are a constant problem for many, as well as victims of domestic abuse and many other issues.

Denise said: "Out of 2,900 people we've helped this year only five are working. Times are hard.

"There's increasing rates of domestic violence, mental illness and rising debts. We've helped people who haven't eaten for days. Kids going to school with no breakfast and for who free school meals are the only food they have all day."

Although the charity is helping as many families as they can, Denise's focus is on making it work as a business. She also needs to find a new warehouse for early next year when the current lease runs out.

"We have been lucky with volunteers but we need staff to make us sustainable," she said. "For that to happen we need money."

The charity is also appealing for firms and the public to donate toys and food for an event on December 20 which will see the hampers given out to some of the most in need in the borough for Christmas.

Go to towerhamletsfoodbank.org.uk

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