This September will mark another exciting ‘first’ for Bonny Downs as we launch our Community Food Club (CFC).
Along with other services such as our Food Bank, our Food Pantry partnership with St Bart’s Church, our Family Hub and our Debt Advice centre, the Community Food Club is part of our strategy to offer holistic ‘wraparound’ support for our neighbours in need.
What is a food club?
Like a food bank, the purpose of a food club is to support people who are struggling to afford the essentials they need. But there are some important differences too.
Food banks are intended to provide short-term, crisis support for people suffering food poverty. For example, at Bonny Downs we typically provide food parcels a maximum of three times during any six-month period – which helps ensure that we turn nobody away.
On the other hand, food clubs are designed to provide a regular support network and be part of a longer-term solution that empowers people and helps them to get their finances back on track.
“For example, if a family has been attending our Food Bank for several weeks and still needs help, we can refer them to the Food Club for ongoing support,” says Kim Steward, co-manager of our Food Bank.
By running two services in future, both our Wednesday Food Bank which has been operating since 2013 and our new Thursday Community Food Club, we hope to offer people in Newham a greater choice as well as more support in tackling the underlying causes of the poverty they face.
How will the club help our community?
We expect the club to provide support to a wide range of local people who face food poverty for different reasons. These may include local people who have lost their jobs or are struggling on benefits; overseas nationals who live here legally but receive no support under the UK’s government’s immigration policy; and others who are simply finding they can no longer afford to feed their families because of the cost of living crisis.
In line with our strategy to provide longer-term support for people facing crisis, our Club will also offer ‘more than food’. We will have qualified advisors onsite, who can help members with a range of different issues and challenges.
These include how to make a household budget, tips on managing money, and debt advice. We can also signpost people to other specialist support services, including the Citizens Advice Bureau, immigration advice, Shelter and other housing advice, and welfare benefits advice. We hope to run English classes in future too.
“We’re excited about this new service and look forward to welcoming our neighbours in September” says Angie Allgood, Director of Partnerships at Bonny Downs. “We believe it will make a difference in our community, supporting our neighbours beyond their immediate crisis and giving them affordable food solutions over the longer-term.”
How does the Food Club work/ how can I access it?
Like our Food Bank, the Community Food Club will be hosted at Bonny Downs Church in East Ham and staffed by compassionate local volunteers. It will run every Thursday from 11am to 1pm.
The cost to attend is £5 per visit, and in return visitors can exchange for the food and household items they want most at a low, discounted price. As Kim explains, “That way, they get a lot more than £5-worth of food and they have more choice about what items they receive, depending on what they really need most each week.”
The Club is open to anyone who lives in E6. We do not require people to prove their income or bring a referral voucher. Visitors do not need to book in advance and can just turn up on the day. We do ask people to complete a short registration form on their first visit, and they can then come any week they wish.
The items available will vary from week to week but there will always be a range of staple foods and household goods. Food will be sourced through a mix of items saved from food waste, donations, and supermarket shopping by our volunteers using the members’ fees.
How can I support the Food Club?
We are currently recruiting a team of volunteers and welcome applications. You can read more and apply at bonnydowns.org/volunteer and we look forward to hearing from you!
If you would like to donate instead, we welcome non-perishable items are welcome at Bonny Downs Church on Wednesdays or Thursdays from 9am to 2pm or you can donate money quickly and securely on our Localgiving page.
In addition, the Community Food Club has a committee who will meet regularly to decide on issues such as spending membership fees, updating the stock, and expanding the ‘more than food’ offer. Please email us if you would like to be involved.