Even in London,the Borough of Tower Hamlets is something of an anomaly. Covering an area of circa 20km² and housing nearly 240,000 people, it is home to the wealthiest and the poorest people in London. With Canary Wharf in its boundaries, the wealth is undeniable, but what isn’t always seen is the poverty in the other areas within the district. The borough has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the country; in 2010 57 percent of children were living in poverty, as defined by the Campaign to End Child Poverty in their review covering England, compared to a figure of 46 percent in the London Borough of Islington, which had the second highest rate. It also has a high rate of unemployment, and despite the average salary for people working in Tower Hamlets being £64,000, almost 40% of households live on less than £15,000.
It is against this backdrop that the Tower Hamlets Foodbank operates. Set up in 2010 under the umbrella of the Trussell Trust organisation, the Tower Hamlets Foodbank is responding directly to local people experiencing hardship as a result of some of these social and economic issues. Using a network of churches within the borough, they are able to offer support in many areas, providing emergency food and grocery supplies to those that are in greatest need. The basic tenet of their operation is one of prevention rather than remedy. By providing everyday essentials the aim is to prevent people becoming homeless rather than directly assisting the homeless. Consequently, one of their biggest challenges is one of logistics. Since recently, the Foodbank receives strong support by IFCO the international provider of green reusable crates, which enables the Foodbank to tackle one of their major aims: the reduction of waste, as occurs with the disposal of one-way outer packaging and hence lay an even stronger focus on the sourcing and distribution of food.
by Andy Beeching