Foodbank sees rise in demand and donations

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When financial hardship strikes, it is often the people of the East End who feels the pain most acutely.

That's why Tower Hamlets Foodbank held a hamper event for hundreds of people in the borough in the days leading up to Christmas.

Those who took solace from the offerings were on the rebound from issues as straightforward as redundancy to more complex entanglements, including domestic violence.

Food, donated in a series of collections across the borough, was handed at an event at Christ Church in Spitalfields.

Support has been wide-ranging, from the world's biggest firms to those in communities, themselves deep in hardship.

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Langdon Park has the second highest ratio of free school meals in the country. Witnessing that poverty has inspired pupils to take a lead role in tackling it.

The school collected around 450kg of goods in 2010 and followed that up with 540kg last year. Despite the worsening economy, the children this year collected 637kg of goods for the foodbank.

Teachers Mary O'Brien and Claire Frost, as well as a team of students, came to the event to see where the food goes.

Mary said: "The students who help don't see it as poverty, they just think they themselves are lucky. They just want to make others happy.

"We've seen some parents from our school come today to receive a hamper."

In total around four tonnes of food was collected for this year's hamper donation and given out to those who have been referred by charities or social workers.

"Coming here has been eye-opening," said Claire. "Next year we'll get kids to bring toys they no longer need because we've seen a demand for that."

Companies which have supported the Tower Hamlets Foodbank also gathered at the event to see first-hand the effect of their contributions.

Global firm IFCO, which supplies crates to companies such as Waitrose and Tesco, decided to help after a plea from the Tower Hamlets Foodbank founder Denise Bentley.

As well as providing crates, the company went on to fund storage space.

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IFCO managing director Chris Taylor said: "Denise rang us and explained what she needed. We thought it was an excellent idea and we wanted to come on board. This is a group of fantastic, inspirational people.

"We like to help people who need help so we set up our responsibility initiative to offer support. This fits in perfectly with our philosophy."

Christine Bamigbola, the London development officer for the Trussell Trust, which overseas the UK's foodbanks, was also at the event.

"Without the volunteers this would never be done," she said. "People are volunteering like never before and now 292 foodbanks in the UK have fed over 10,000 people in the last six months."

As well as providing a much needed food source, Christine said the foodbank had other benefits with teams using the events to offer support and advice.

"People feel happy when they find out about the offer of food but then realise they are going to have to face someone to receive it," she said.

"They become more aware of their situation and have to confront it."

The Foodbank is now looking for new storage facilities for 2013. Go to towerhamletsfoodbank.org.uk if you can help.

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