There With You: Tower Hamlets’ biggest foodbank helping those most affected by covid-19

There With You - the East London Advertiser's campaign to help everyone get through coronavirus cris

There With You - the East London Advertiser's campaign to help everyone get through coronavirus crisis. - Credit: Archant

The last few weeks have been hugely challenging for Tower Hamlets’ biggest foodbank, First Love Foundation.

First Love Foundation foodbank in Tower Hamlets, which is under extreme pressure as the country batt

First Love Foundation foodbank in Tower Hamlets, which is under extreme pressure as the country battles covid-19. Picture: First Love Foundation - Credit: Archant

Though accustomed to dealing with society’s most vulnerable, the team of eight — led by programme manager Debbie Pemberton — have never faced anything quite like coronavirus.

In the 10 years since the foundation was born, Debbie has watched foodbanks go from being a rare fixture to being part and parcel of most communities.

Both she and marketing manager Yasmine Patpatia are keen to emphasise that the foodbank is just one of the services on offer, with the ultimate aim of the foundation to give people the mechanisms to ensure they don’t need the foodbank.

Yasmine says the key question they ask is: “why are you hungry and what can we do to get you back on your feet quickly?”

First Love Foundation foodbank in Tower Hamlets, which is facing extreme pressure during the coronav

First Love Foundation foodbank in Tower Hamlets, which is facing extreme pressure during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: First Love Foundation - Credit: Archant


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This is the approach under normal circumstances, though as Yasmine points out, these times are far from ordinary: “Things have changed dramatically because of covid-19; people who don’t usually live in crisis are reaching out, especially those who have lost their jobs.”

People are referred to the foundation through a variety of channels, with numbers on the rise. The constantly-evolving situation is proving diffiult to manage.

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The foundation is focused on helping two key groups; the vulnerable who are self-isolating and parents whose children rely on free school meals.

A food delivery scheme is being piloted to help the vulnerable, and the foundation has brought forward their Love Summer Foundation scheme which helps struggling parents during the holidays.

First Love Foundation foodbank in Tower Hamlets, which is under extreme pressure as the country batt

First Love Foundation foodbank in Tower Hamlets, which is under extreme pressure as the country battles covid-19. Picture: First Love Foundation - Credit: Archant

Both schemes require funding to continue, with the foundation particularly in need because they also support smaller foodbanks in the area.

Debbie says their approach of bulk buying from wholesalers and supermarkets allows them to do this, but warns that resources will run out in two weeks should the situation continue to escalate.

This is why they have set up a covid-19 fundraiser page, with both Debbie and Yasmine urging people to help if they can.

Yasmine says the wreckage of covid-19 “will affect foodbanks for months to come.”

First Love Foundation foodbank in Tower Hamlets, which is under extreme pressure as the country batt

First Love Foundation foodbank in Tower Hamlets, which is under extreme pressure as the country battles covid-19. Picture: First Love Foundation - Credit: Archant

To help First Love Foundation, visit firstlovefoundation.org.uk/

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