Some of our Key Partners and supporters
Many individuals and groups have provided long term and extensive support to us over the years, for which we hugely appreciate. Below is just a selection, which will hopefully be continuosly added to!
WECH (Walerton and Elgin community homes)- Our main supporter, who has provided funding, resources, expertise, office space and distribution space since the food bank began.
Citizens Advice Westminster- Have provided advice services through one of their professional advisors every week during our distribution.
Shelter- Started providing housing advice during our Wednesday morning distribution in 2018.
The Felix project- Provide weekly fresh food deliveries on Wednesday mornings which play a huge role in supplementing and diversifying the packages that we distribute. Have connected us with tonnes of food that would otherwise be at risk of going to waste.
City Harvest- Also provide fresh food donations during our Wednesday morning distribution, at a later point in the morning once the first fresh food delivery has often gone due to high levels of demand. Have also provided a large amount of food at risk of being wasted.
The Paddington Partnership- Connect business volunteers around the Paddington area to the food bank, bringing in and supporting a large number of groups to assist with distributions.
One Westminster- Connect business volunteers from around Westminster to come and work in the food bank. Also provide training opportunities and platforms to connect with other community groups in the borough and share experiences and best practice.
Hands On London- Connect individual volunteers with the food bank, as well as some groups.
Paddington Central- Provide multiple food and essentials donations throughout the year, as well as connecting the food bank to volunteer groups and facilitating one of its regular collections.
Westminster and Harrow Road Community champions- A source of regular support and volunteers who carry out numerous projects in the area that also provide opportunities to people who use the food bank.
Paddington Academy- Donated between 5,000-6,000 items of food in December 2018, as well as partnering with us for the community element of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, where 10 students come and volunteer for 1.5 hours every Friday.
UCS Hampstead- Donated multiple tonnes of food in November 2018, with a group of students continuing to volunteer on a weekly basis.
A2 Dominion, The Beethoven centre- Provide multiple donations throughout the year whilst being a key referral agent and community partner.
MFS UK- Have volunteered on multiple occasions and provided essential funding.
M and G Prudential- Have also volunteered, made financial donations and are supporting our development of case management and recording software.
Splunk- Have volunteered on multiple occasions and made food and essentials donations.
Heathrow Express- Have volunteered multiple times per year since 2017.
Sainsbury's Local, Paddington Station- Have donated food and essentials, money and hosted a monthly collection as well as a permanent donation bin.
Sainsbury's, Ladbroke Grove- Host a donation bin for customers to drop donations.
Sainsbury's Local, Sheldon Square- Host a donation bin and a monthly collection.
Waitrose, Bayswater- Host a donation bin and a monthly collection.
The food bank is open on Wednesday mornings from 9:30 am for registration, with distribution normally starting at 10:00 am. The session finishes at 12:30 pm, so last arrivals should ideally be 12:15 pm.
For the session, you should come to the WECH community centre, Athens Gardens, Chantry Close, W9 3RS. The community centre can be accessed by turning off Elgin Avenue onto Chantry close and following the road around, as seen by the pictures below.
Outside of distribution hours, people dropping off donations or collecting emergency referrals should come to the WECH office, 416 Harrow Road, W9 2HX. The office is open 9:30am-5: 30 pm Mon-Thur and 9:30am-12: 30 pm on Friday. Emergency collections should have times pre-agreed so that the packages can be prepared.
Map showing the location of the food bank distribution (Wednesdays 9:30 am- 12:30pm) and the office.
(For access to Wednesday distribution) Entrance to Chantry Close
Follow the road around and continue along under construction works.
At the end of the road, in the middle door is the entrance to the community centre.
When talking to someone who may not have been in a food bank before, the same questions or assertions will often come up. I thought it would be useful therefore to answer (in relation to North Paddington food bank at least) them here rather than bury them in amongst the rest of the information you can find on this website, although to get a full picture on how the food bank works and how best for you to engage with it you should have a look through the rest of the content available..
What are the items that you most need donating?
This is more of a case what we do not need donating as much. See below for a categorisation of what we need to restock on a weekly basis, what needs restocking slightly less regularly and items that we tend to not need donating as often because they are the most popular items to donate and we regularly find ourselves overstocked.
Nappies size 4
Nappies size 5
Nappies size 6
Jams and spreads
Pasta and cooking sauces
Nappies size 3
-Do not need donating regularly
Women’s sanitary products
Nappies size 1
Nappies size 2
Who uses the food bank?
There is no single majority or group who uses the food bank more, people of all ages, backgrounds and situations come for support for a variety of reasons.
Why do people need to use the food bank?
(By no means a full description of the causes of food bank use, with more time and research we hope to be able to provide more information in the future). The experiences of people accessing the food bank are varied, however, there are some consistencies and patterns of use which reveal some of the larger issues pushing people into hardship.
Two of the key underlying issues are:
-Debt- Large amounts of debts across many households related to rent arrears, costs built up over periods of illness or lost benefits and other reasons.
-Benefits issues- Many people have long and protracted situations in which they are trying to access benefits they need to live comfortably with illness or disability but have been declared fit for work; others have been sanctioned for not meeting the terms of their benefits whilst others are experiencing the waiting period for universal credit, which is then contributing to the debt issues explained above.
These overriding issues are then amplified by other factors, examples being:
-Drug and alcohol addiction
-Immigration and asylum issues
-Loss of work or low income
-Illness and disability
Do food banks help homeless people?
Sometimes, but homelessness and the other causes that will bring someone to needing a food bank are complex and most people who use the food bank will have some sort of accommodation. Most are in their own home, but are struggling with costs due to issues with benefits and income. Others will be in hostels, refuges, staying with friends/family or temporary accommodation.
Many of the items that we offer are largely unsuitable to people who are sleeping rough, and other organisations in the area (such as the West London day centre) are more suitable to meet their needs. If someone who is sleeping rough is referred to the food bank though, we do provide what we can (such as food that doesn't require cooking and toiletries) however they only make up a minority of the people accessing our service.
Do people try and cheat the system?
I really considered not providing a response to this question, as it is normally asserted by those with little understanding of food banks and the situations of those who use them, creating a toxic environment around those experiencing hardship and putting people off accessing a food bank when they may need it. However the amount it gets mentioned warrants some response.
We ensure that we understand as best as possible the situations that have brought people to the food bank so that we can have an idea as to how long they may need support and any other help that could be provided, which is why we operate on a voucher system and work with specialist referral agencies.
This is then balanced alongside a welcoming and supportive environment, in recognition of the fact that stigma may make it difficult for many people to ask for such help. We do not want people to feel like they cannot ask for help when they need it and want them to come to us when they need us rather than feel judged. If we treated people like they were cheating us by asking for food, people would be less likely to ask for help when most needing the service, and they will already have enough hoops to jump through relating to the issues that have brought them to us, so accessibility combined with understanding creates as good an environment as possible in which people can access support.
Not just a food bank
It is easy to think of a food bank as just needing items which are then given out to people who need them, but there is a lot more that goes on, and even the basic premise is carried out within a more complex structure that is initially thought. These reasons, alongside the more consistent and cheaper food sources that we can access ourselves that makes regular donations of +£2 a better way to support the food bank to carry out its services.
We have seen a consistent increase in the number of people needing packages who are not able to come to the food bank and have no one to come and collect on their behalf. These issues are largely medically related, with a number of physical and mental health issues making it impossible for people to travel to and from the food bank with bags of food.
This means that a considerable amount of staff time is spent per week organising and delivering packages that fit with the dietary needs of the person, whilst also being suitable for them to prepare and eat themselves. This often means purchasing items, not on our list.
The enhanced needs of the person they need to be considered. If they are alone and unable to collect food, it means that other tasks are also difficult, which means that the food bank manager often needs to assist with other tasks (recent examples being installing and setting up broadband, sorting post, helping fill out court forms), which again takes up time and resources. As the referral agents who connect the individuals to the food bank are not always able to do home visits themselves, it is us who can carry out these tasks and act as a bridge between the referral agent and the individual.
Whilst most items are distributed on our session on Wednesdays, there are regular occasions where someone will come to the attention of a referral agent or the food bank where they have absolutely nothing and need items immediately. This requires flexibility and the ability to respond with appropriate items at short notice, which can sometimes mean having to purchase the items especially. As the situations that have led the person to need an emergency referral are inevitably serious, more work is then required to ensure the person is receiving appropriate support. Examples of emergency referrals are people who have been evicted from their homes and individuals who have experienced a familial breakdown.
Many people have complex needs and limited support networks to help them with issues that may emerge both in relation to the situation that has led them to the food bank and other problems that may arise, whereas the referral agencies that have sent them to the food bank may not have enough time, resources or capacity to help with all of a person's issues. Or the person is not able to find any appropriate help. This means that the food bank and its volunteers often provide further time and support to help people.
Recently, this has included support with job searches, CVs and interview preparation; referrals to adult social services; referrals to other specialist organisations; help with court forms; research on various benefits related processes; finding and connecting to appropriate training courses.
As a place in the community
Not only does the food bank provide a place to receive essentials packages and advice. But a place for people to sit, eat, drink and talk to people they may or may not know and to volunteers.
This is not necessarily a situation that people who need to use a food bank can often do, given the financial requirements attached to going to social spaces such as coffee shops, so the food bank is fulfilling a role in getting people out of their houses and communicating with others in a supportive and non-judgemental environment.
If you need to come to the food bank
If you are in a position where you are going without food and essentials and we are your nearest food bank, there are a couple of ways you can access our service.
If you are not receiving such support, you can come directly to us on a Wednesday morning, where we can have an initial conversation, put together a package for you if appropriate and direct you towards further support if it is required, including our in-house advisors from Citizens Advice Westminster and Shelter.
After your first visit, you will need to come with a voucher from a support organisation or one of our in-house advisors, which can be established when you are here.
Please see our access page to see how to get to the food bank.
If you have any reservations about coming to the food bank, please call our manager, James Quayle, on 0207 266 3347 (if he’s not available he can call you back as soon as possible) to talk a bit more and make arrangements for you to access support.
We promise to do what we can to support anyone who needs our service, but we may not be able to provide packages that fully meet needs and tastes.