Since 2017 our charity has fought tirelessly to mitigate food poverty in Southwark, a borough where 23% of primary school children claim free school meals. Food insecurity is a critical issue that is becoming ever more prevalent, yet still the government and other organisations fail to address its complexities properly. We have nearly always found that those who are food insecure experience some kind of discrimination in wider society due to existing inequalities. For instance, the BAME community make up over 90% of our clients despite making up a far smaller proportion of the population in Southwark. We, too, consistently support 104 families living under the ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition, restricting them from accessing public funds such as universal credit, child benefit and even free school meals.
At Central Southwark Community Hub, we run a number of different projects which aim to provide long term solutions for those facing food insecurity in Southwark. Our food bank model not only provides clients with weekly groceries, but also personal development schemes and social prescribing services to help individuals in their unique circumstances. One of our main focuses, very prevalent during the pandemic, is access to food for vulnerable families and children. Our Holiday Club, which provides learning, food and play activities, aims at reducing financial and emotional pressure on vulnerable families during the school holidays. We also run 'back to work' and employment schemes as well as support groups for mothers and those living under the 'no recourse to public funds' condition.
Years of austerity have meant more people than ever are facing destitution, a number that has only worsened since the pandemic. Previous to the pandemic, across all of our centres, we supported an average of 30 households weekly. We now cater for an average of 118 clients weekly (an average which peaked at 239 in August). The Trussell Trust forecasts another increase of 61% over the course of this winter.
Despite all the help we and other food banks have given to our community in recent years, people are still missing out. There are large numbers of people struggling to put food on the table but whose situations are not deemed ‘dire’ enough to be referred to a food bank. The food pantry model solves this problem, it works not only on a referral basis but for anyone in the community struggling to buy food. These people will pay a small fee for the food they would otherwise spend a lot more for in a supermarket or shop.
We have an excellent team behind all our work at CSCH. Our CEO, Felicia Boshorin, has worked in food banks for over 10 years and boasts a wealth of experience in both charity and business. We currently have 22 volunteers working for us, who aid us in everything we do, from communications to warehouse work.