Most frequent questions and answers
If you are in a situation where you are going without food and essentials and need a package, please visit us at our Wednesday morning distribution using the ‘finding us and opening hours’ information on the tab below.
We will provide a package on your first visit and establish the best way to arrange continued support if it is needed.
Once at the distribution, you will have the opportunity to sit down with a hot drink and some food. An adviser from Citizens Advice Westminster is also regularly available if you would like any advice on financial, benefits or housing issues.
When they are ready (normal waiting times are between 0-20 minutes, but could sometimes reach 45 at busy periods), a volunteer will sit with you and go over our parcel contents list with you to establish what you need and would like. Be sure to be open about what you want and need, and they will do their best to cater your package to your tastes. You will be able to go through the package and request swaps be made if there are items in the package that you do not want or need.
Please bring your own bags.
If you are an organisation that provides support to people who may need to access the food bank, please fill out the registration form in the tab below and use the information on this tab for reference before referring someone to the food bank using the ‘make a referral’ tab.
It is recommended that some sort of meeting take place where the food bank manager is able to talk to those that will be able to make referrals so that he can find out more about how your service works, and vice versa.
All referrers are encouraged to visit the food bank to gain first hand experience on how it works, so that they can be in a more informed position to make referrals.
Home deliveries and emergency referrals can only be made through contact with a support organisation, such as an adviser/key worker/social worker and are only available depending on our capacity to provide them.
Due to our small team and high demand, home deliveries can usually only be made to individuals who are housebound for medical reasons and do not have anyone who can collect a package on their behalf.
An emergency referral can be possible when someone finds themselves without any food and cannot wait for our Wednesday morning session.
If you or someone you know needs a home delivery or emergency referral, please inform a health worker/social worker/adviser who is supporting you/them and ask them to email email@example.com.
You can refer someone to the food bank here. Only referrals from individuals that that have already been registered with the food bank can make referrals. If you would like to become a referrer, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to volunteer, please fill out the survey at the bottom of this tab after reading the information below :
If you have any further questions, please email email@example.com
Regular volunteers form the basis of our entire service. They collect food, tell people about what we do, contribute their thoughts and feedback on how best to work and will spend large amounts of time ensuring that people accessing the food bank are comfortable, supported and that they receive a package that reflects their needs and tastes as much as possible.
We do not attach specific times in which people have to volunteer, as many of our volunteers have other commitments, so are happy for whatever help can be provided according to a volunteers availability.
All we ask is that volunteers are non-judgemental, kind, considerate, discreet, have a good work ethic and are open with their thoughts and feedback to the manager.
At your request, we then promise to provide training opportunities and support for volunteers looking to build skills and experience. We are happy to assist with CV writing and can give volunteer roles that will aid them in achieving whatever aims they may have.
Some of the roles that volunteers can assist with:
- Distributions: Working directly with people using the service.
- Collections (currently an urgent need for more volunteers): Engaging with the public to encourage food donations.
- Sorting: Getting our cupboard ready for distribution.
- Transport: Picking up and dropping off donations (useful if you have a vehicle or a Zipcar membership, we can provide petrol costs.
- Data: Inputting, analysing and collating data so that it can be used to explore what is happening within the service and making us able to communicate levels and patterns of need.
- Admin: Helping with some general organising and background work!
- Thanking donors: Writing and sending thank you letters to donors and supporters.
- Researching: Looking into new opportunities for the food bank, including best practice, potential supporters and new support agencies that can act as a referral partner.
- Policy and strategy: Contributing to the development of the organisation and looking into ways that it can improve. The opportunities are basically endless!
- Of the above, no one under-18 is able to volunteer at our distribution or with home deliveries. Anyone over-16 is able to volunteer at any other role.
- Anyone under-16 is only able to volunteer with a parent/guardian at a task outside of distributions and home deliveries unless otherwise arranged.
If you would like to volunteer with a group from your work/school/community organisation, please fill out the survey at the bottom of this tab after reading all of the information below:
forming the basis of our service, we then work with groups who would like to volunteer on a one-off/semi-regular basis. This supplements our volunteer numbers so that our core volunteers are not run off their feet every week and giving them opportunities to induct and supervise new volunteers. It also makes them able to carry out their roles under less pressure, whilst exposing new groups of people to the food bank environment, in the hope that they become more informed on the issues in their local area, which may motivate them to help us or another community organisation further.
Overall, bringing in groups, largely from locally based businesses, adds a new dimension to the food bank and creates an even more positive atmosphere in which to work and access support.
As well as this, we look to utilise the professional skills that these groups often bring with them, so we are able to organise problem-solving groups where a certain aspect or problem associated with running the food bank is explored and potential solutions discussed. These have often proven popular both with groups and the food bank, as it provides a different way for professionals to volunteer whilst giving some much-needed expertise and new thinking to the food bank.
Donations are welcome from volunteer groups, with financial donations being the best utilised, as they can be used to purchase the stock we know we need. Groups are also welcome to bring there own physical donations however.
The main volunteering options for groups are:
Distributions: Every Wednesday from 9am-1pm- Working with people using the food bank to put together packages that reflect their needs and preferences.
Collections: Most Thursdays 12-2pm or 4:30-6:30pm, as well as some Saturdays 12-6pm- Distributing leaflets in partner supermarkets to encourage food donations.
Cupboard sorting: Fridays 3pm-5pm- Sorting donations and the food bank cupboard in preparation for Wednesdays distribution, as well as potentially supporting some people collecting packages.
Problem solving/workshops: Organised individually by each group.
Financial donations – small and large, regular and one-off – are the best way to support North Paddington Food Bank as they allow us to make our own purchases of items we need from suppliers and wholesalers. Such donations can be made here.
If you are a UK taxpayer you are eligible to claim gift aid on your donation, which increases the amount we receive by 25%, so please be sure to include it if you are eligible.
To find out more about why financial donations are more effective, read our physical vs financial donations tab below.
Donations of food and essentials are really appreciated and put to good use. Details on what to donate are at the bottom of this tab. First, here are a few options for making such donations.
If you have organised a collection at your school, place of work, worship or socialising and have a lot of items (basically too many to fit into a car), delivery can be prearranged with the manager through firstname.lastname@example.org. Usually, you will be directed to the WECH community centre on a Tuesday, Thursday or Friday (3pm-4pm, most preferable) afternoon.
Alternatively, they can be dropped off directly to our distribution on Wednesday morning, ideally before 9am.
REQUEST A PICK-UP
If you need your items collecting, please email email@example.com with a picture of the donations and information for collecting so that the manager can make arrangements for your donations to be picked up. It may take us up to a week to be able to collect donations.
ONLINE GROCERY ORDERS
If the donation is in the form of an online grocery order, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to agree a time and to get a mobile phone number to put on the order.
If you are able to carry your donations, or can fit them into a car (and don’t need a van), you can either follow the above instructions, or they can also be dropped off to the following locations:
WECH office between 9:30am-5:30pm Monday-Thursday and 9:30am-12:30pm on Fridays.
-Supermarket collection points, normally found after the tills: Waitrose, 38 Porchester Road, London, W2 6ES
-Sainsburys, Canal Way, Ladbroke Grove, London, W10 5AA
-Sainsburys Local, Station Concourse, Paddington Station, London, W2 1HB
-Sainsburys Local, 12a Sheldon Square, London, W2 6EZ
Food donations make an important contribution to our service and suit a lot of donors who want to know that they are contributing to something that will suit a particular need. However, with the high levels of varied demand that we are currently experiencing, relying too heavily on physical donations raises a few issues when considered alongside the food banks operational and logistical capacity. This means that regular donations of as little as £2 per month are the most efficient, cost-effective and best way to support the North Paddington Food Bank.
We currently distribute around 2,500-4,000 items per week. We have the budget to purchase around 800-1,000 of these (at a cost of between £250-£400). We would like to increase this amount so that it makes up around 60-70% of the items we distribute, still leaving a significant amount of our items distributed coming from physical donations. Please read on to see why we would like to take this approach:
In short, we cannot receive fresh food donations unless they are delivered directly to our distribution on a Wednesday morning, as we do not have the storage capabilities.
Regular financial donations
Having the budget will mean that we can purchase fresh food as and when it is needed (for distributions, home deliveries and emergency referrals) from local grocers on Harrow road. This will provide a more nutritionally balanced package whilst also meeting more of the specific dietary requirements of people using the food bank.
Whilst many donors kindly drop donations off to us, it is not always possible. We do not own a vehicle and have one full-time member of staff (the manager), with some volunteer time to assist. This means that, with the use of a taxi or Zipcar, the manager will move most donations themselves, which is no problem for a few donation points, but risks becoming a time-consuming task if required collections are too many.
Collections then have to occur at suitable times for those donating the items. As we only have access to our food cupboard twice a week, donations cannot always be put straight into storage, which means we have to put them in our office (where we are kindly hosted by housing association WECH) and then move them again when we are able to get into the cupboard, increasing the time taken to sort the food.
Regular financial donations
With the correct amount of funds, we are able to purchase the items we need either from a wholesaler or supplier and delivered to us at a time we know that we have access to our cupboard and when there are volunteers to sort them for distribution.
There are periods of the year in which we will receive large amounts of donations that more than meet the needs of the people using the service, namely Easter, the harvest festival period and Christmas. Whilst this increases the logistical pressures explained above further, it is manageable and worthwhile over the short periods that they are coming in.
The issue arises with the fact that outside of these periods, physical donations do not meet the needs of the service, particularly now, as demand continues to grow month on month, year on year.
This means that we need to rely on other means to get the large number of items required during quieter donation periods.
Regular financial donations
Having a consistent, higher regular income to cover the purchase of items will mean that we are able to provide the items required year round whilst continuing to use holiday periods to receive larger donations from our supporters.
RELIABILITY AND QUANTITY
Whilst we do have our shopping list to provide information on what to donate, and what is physically donated will go to good use, we do not always get exactly what we need at the correct times.
Physical donations will always have larger numbers of certain items alongside those that can be used that week, which can serve to take up our limited storage space.
Alongside this, some items that we regularly need are not donated as often, as they may not be available in the places we receive donations, or they are too expensive. An example of this is gluten or dairy free food products. Whilst only a small amount of these items are needed, when we do not have them it can make a big difference to the person receiving the package.
It is also the case that we will receive unsuitable items (already open, out of date, without clear instructions etc), which cannot be used. All items also require date checking and counting, which can be time-consuming and impractical considering the access restrictions we have on our storage space.
Finally, the home deliveries we make require special purchases even when we have large amounts of physical donations coming in due to the specific, usually medically based, needs of the person receiving the package.
With this considered, physical donations will continue to play an important part of what we use as it can provide some much appreciated variation on what we distribute. In order to maintain the stock levels of what we need however, financial donations can play a big role.
Regular financial donations
If we are able to use some of the resources that go into physical donations, we can make sure that the items that we bring in are those that we know we need based on the needs of the people using the service at the time that they are needed.
We know the approximate amount of each item we use on a weekly basis and the specialist items that it is important to have consistent access to, whilst items being ordered by us are already date checked and quantities already recorded, saving time, resources and reducing the chance of having unsuitable items.
We realise that around our area and the areas that donors purchase items from may be smaller or more expensive stores, where the items being donated could be brought for cheaper and in larger quantities elsewhere, which has an effect on the amount of items we end up getting donated to us.
Regular financial donations
With regular funds, we are able to purchase more items at a lower cost from places identified by us as being affordable with good quality. This means that all of the resources being put into the food bank are being used as efficiently as possible to serve as large and diverse a group of people as possible.
You can give a one-off donation or a sign-up to donate monthly through www.npfoodbank.org.uk/donate. If you are a UK taxpayer you are eligible to claim gift aid on your donation, which increases the amount we receive by 25%, so please be sure to include it if you are eligible.
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, Selbourne House, 36a Elgin Avenue, London, W9 3AZ
Outside of distribution hours, people dropping off donations or collecting emergency referrals should come to the WECH office, on the second floor of the address above. 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.
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 among 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.
- Tinned fish
- Tinned meat
- Tinned soup
- Tinned fruit
- Tinned tomatoes
- Long-life milk
- Nappies size 4
- Nappies size 5
- Nappies size 6
- Jams and spreads
- Pasta and cooking sauces
- Soap/shower gel
- Toilet paper
- Nappies size 3
- Baby food
Do not need donating regularly
- Baked beans
- 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 supposedly 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, which can be reasons for food bank use in their own right, examples being:
- Familial issues
- Drug and alcohol addiction
- Immigration and asylum issues
- Loss of work or low income
- Illness and disability
- Mental health
- Housing issues
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.