11:11 AM April 4, 2022
The West Hampstead Community Food Hub is preparing for high demand after increases in energy and water bills, national insurance, and council tax came into effect on April 1.
The foodbank already supplies up to 450 people every week and the steady rise in living costs over the past months has meant an increased number of West Hampstead residents are unable to afford food.
It was launched in April 2020 by Pranay Hariharan, Revd Hugh Thomas and Janet Grauberg to provide food for people unable to visit grocery stores during the pandemic.
Pranay said: “It was meant as a safety net at a time when people were shielding for different reasons and could not access food.
“But we discovered that this isn’t just a Covid problem, it’s not restricted to the emergency that Covid created – there were a lot of people who were falling through the cracks otherwise.”
Every Saturday, around 45 volunteers provide food parcels with dry foods, fresh vegetables, snacks and toiletries to around 130 families for pick-up at the Sidings Community Center or home-delivery.
Since its launch two years ago, the hub has partnersred with businesses to supply fresh food to residents and is part of the council’s Camden Food Poverty Alliance (CFPA).
Pranay said: “Our aim now is to provide help to alleviate people from poverty that they’re experience, not to mention the energy crisis that we’re now seeing.
“We believe the need in the area is just going to be higher.”
For example, the 39-year-old said he was recently approached by a resident who needed food after the unexpected rise in energy costs meant that despite budgeting their finances, they had no funds left by the end of the month.
While the hub provides its services to anyone in need, the initiative especially helps elderly people and families.
“We have a light touch model, so we don’t ask very many questions,” said Pranay.
“Our fundamental belief is that if you’re coming here for food then you’re in need and if you’re in need, then we’re not going to ask you a whole bunch of questions and add to your existing pains.
“It’s not a transaction. First and foremost we want to ensure that anyone who is coming here still feels their dignity is intact. “
Pranay hopes to expand the Food Hub to include a community cafe where volunteers can interact with guests to understand the root cause of their problems and offer wraparound support.
This could include language courses, information on optimizing energy consumption, or mental health services.
Fiona Lehane, 42, volunteered with hub from the beginning, and delivering food to people’s homes underlined for her the severity of the current situation.
The hub has become an integral part of the West Hampstead community.
Fiona said: “I got to know so many people and make new friends. There are just so many great characters that you meet here and all of the guests are lovely. “
For co-founder Revd Hugh Thomas of St Cuthbert’s Church, where the Food Hub was initially based, the project was an important step to ease the invisible poverty created during the pandemic.
He said: “The thing I find quite extraordinary is how in the face of trauma, so much good has come out in the community.”
Last year, West Hampstead Food Hub was honored in the UK Parliament Awards for Campaign of the Year for its work to tackle food poverty afflicting the community during the pandemic.
The food bank is open every Saturday between 10-12am at Sidings Community Center, 150 Brassey Road.
Non-perishable foods can be donated at Little Waitrose, 319 West End Lane, Paramount properties, 150 West End Lane, Emmanuel Church, Lyncroft Gardens, and Sidings Community Center, 150 Brassey Road.
For information and to donate money visit westhampsteadcommunityfoodhub.org