• The Food Bank Hub at Alexandra Palace, London


    During the first Covid pandemic and lockdown, the food bank hub at Ally Pally has made over 15,000 deliveries to more than 3,000 homes. It averages 1,700 deliveries per month, and the people working here are largely volunteers. The food bank is backed, both financially and with seconded staff, by Haringey Council, Edible London, The London Food Alliance and The Felix Project.


    The people that it delivers to are in vulnerable and shielded groups, and are connected with the food bank by NHS London, local GP’s and Haringey Council.

    Christine – Volunteer Packer


    I wanted to help out in any way I could right from the start, and so I went onto the Haringey Council website, and this came up – fortunately I was chosen. I really enjoy working with the people here because they’re a great team, and we’ve all really helped out. It’s now something I look forward to.


    But also, I liked the idea of helping. It’s something that I wanted to do as I’m not one of these sit on your bum at home, type of people. I’m a very active person and I was crawling up the walls. I wanted to take part, no matter how small the part I’d play. We can get through this, because we’ve got through worse.


    Joseph – Volunteer Packer


    I was probably opposite to most people working here at the start. I didn’t really take it that seriously, like I was out at pubs until they got shut down, and all that sort of stuff. But I have known a couple of friends who’ve lost their family members, and so it makes you take it a little bit more seriously, and obviously I’m worried about the senior members in my family.


    I was working in in event management and now all the events stuff has completely stopped. I haven’t worked for two months, and there’s very little prospect of working anytime soon. But there’s also been a few positives: I’m a lot more healthy now than I’ve ever been. I’ve started running, started doing a lot more fitness, been spending time outside. It’s also given me a lot of time to do online courses and research stuff , like where do I want to go, and what do I want to do in life.


    Another positive has been to be a part of this – you feel like you’re actually having a positive impact on people in the community, the community I grew up in. This stuff really does help people, and it makes me feel good – it’s great to do something positive, give something back, which again is something I’ve never done before.

    Chris – Volunteer Driver (L)


    I grew up in Haringey, I’ve been here my whole life, and it’s nice to give something back to the community.


    Some of the people who get the deliveries are really thankful. There was one lady who was doing hand gestures like heart signs, and saying thank you so much. I got all emotional, and I had to pretend I was going back to the van, so I could compose myself. It was really heart warming, and it made it all worth it, seeing her there.


    It’s a big responsibility, visiting all those people. There’s a lot of people struggling out there, like vulnerable old people, and it’s important they get their food.

    Clive – Volunteer Driver (R)


    The state of the old people – that’s what gets to me. They’ve put their two pence worth in a long time ago, and they deserve better. They deserve a little bit more respect, and people should look after them and look out for them. Basically, make sure that they’re not left without. And sometimes we tend to discard the old people because they’re old. But they’re the ones with the wisdom, so we can’t discard them. We should sit down and listen to them and then we might be able to share some of their wisdom and become wiser people.


    What we do is necessary because there’s a lot of people out there that’s really struggling. They’ve no work, so there’s no money coming in – and a lot of them, prior to Corona, were in dire straits. But since Corona it’s worse, so you see a lot more people on the road looking kind of dishevelled. Sometimes we pass extras onto them.


    Anthony – On Site Medic & Forklift Driver


    I’m the on site medic for Alexandra Palace, and a while back there was a course going for a forklift driver. As I’m always here, they put me on it. And now that all their staff are furloughed, I’ve been assisting by driving the forklift – I’m giving a little bit back.


    It is very difficult for a government to actually to cover something like this, it was so serious and so quick. What they did with the lockdown was right, but maybe a bit sooner would have been better.


    If Covid mutates into another virus, it could be 3, 4, or 5 years before they get it under control. We can’t afford to carry on the way we are – but how long can people survive if you cut off the money? How long can we carry on running this operation? Even when Covid is gone, it doesn’t mean that the problem has gone away.

    Nikki – Site Manager


    I came into this just for a couple of days to put some processes in place, such as organise the volunteers, donations, food buying and deliveries. I’m still here 7 or 8 weeks later! 


    At first we were sending out quite random stuff because we were given so many donations. Restaurants were closing down, shops were closing down, there were a lot of local businesses that had stock which was going to start expiring. At one point we had tonnes of Easter eggs. Another time there was lots of fresh sugarcane – and what do you even do with sugar cane?! We had crisps, popcorn, sushi kits  – you name it!


    We did have to stop accepting everything. We looked at what we wanted to send out, and what the people needed and we worked with Haringey Council, Edible London, The London Food Alliance, The Felix Project, suppliers such as Sainsbury’s, and of course all of the volunteers and drivers. If we’re ever in a pinch for drivers, the London Fire Brigade helps out too.


    We have lists of shielded people. Some come from NHS London, some from local GP’s and some from the council. The numbers of people have continued to ramp up. We kept thinking that we were going to get to a point where it would steady, but they’re always climbing. Always climbing. It’s pretty terrifying that there is that amount of people out there who need this help. 


    The worry is how do you continue to help them? How can you make sure that they can access the foods that they need – it’s not luxuries, it’s basics. There’s a lot of isolated & shielded people, and a lot of old people that don’t have other support. They don’t have the capacity maybe to do online ordering, or they don’t have the friends and the relationships, or relatives to support them in that way. Those people probably will get back to normal but actually the fact that they’re out there in the community without that support is pretty sad.


    This is not my normal job, I was seconded from Haringey Council. You know, I’ve never done anything like this before, so it’s quite challenging. But the highlight of my day is knowing that the food is on its journey to the people that need it. It’s a nice feeling knowing that you’re helping people to cope with this, in a small way. You’re helping them through it, and I guess that’s what the council is about – supporting their residents, their community, trying to make sense of it all, and making it a little bit easier for them.

    Goobi – Volunteer Packer


    I’ve lived in Wood Green for 20 years, and I very much see myself as a member of the community. I see a lot more homeless people these days. So many people are struggling. I wouldn’t want to be in that position myself, or wish it on my worst enemy, and I feel a sense of civic duty to do something to help. I’d rather not just sit at home and be idle, so instead I’m putting myself to use.


    I think that those who are a bit more fortunate – it’s it’s up to us to help those who are less fortunate. I think that’s partly because of the way I was raised. My maternal grandfather was a Reverend, and he was very community focused. He knew everyone, and when I used to visit him back in Uganda, a journey with him from from the village to the town, which should take about half an hour, would take at least two because he’d be stopping all the time to check on how people were doing.  When you’re raised with such values, it stays with you.


    I think the hardest bit for people to deal with is the unknown – how long are we going to remain on the lockdown? How long will it take for the economy to start up again? There’s a lot of fear anxiety around, but it’s up to those of us who are a bit more fortunate to help the less fortunate, so to speak. And looking around, you can see that I’m not the only one who thinks this way.

    Laura – Volunteer Packer


    I was made redundant just before Coronavirus happened, and I got my first shift here last week.


    You get to know different walks of life doing this – people that you wouldn’t meet in your day to day. We’re all facing the same problems such as being furloughed, or out of work, and maybe worried about things, but also there’s a chance of enjoying this downtime because it’s possible to think about what’s actually important


    We’re all having quite deep and meaningful conversations with each other here – I guess the situation asks for that to happen. Like, I’ll be talking to a complete stranger about my existential career crisis! And the person opposite is having similar thoughts as well, so it’s quite good for your mental health too. Just being around caring people who are in a similar position is great.


    I think that what we’re doing here shows that local communities can come together and support each other, and that mutual aid groups can be set up. It’s demonstrated that people can help each other, and alongside the support of their local councils as well, they can make a difference in their local communities.

    Veyda – Volunteer Packer


    I’m far away from my family and I don’t have anyone here in the UK, so I’m just alone, and I decided to help. It’s my first time volunteering. It’s kinda exciting for me, because I can do something for people. I don’t even know who these people are, but the feeling of doing something to help, that gives me some satisfaction in myself. 


    I’m going to start studying at University but I don’t know how we’re going to do it – will it be online, or do I need to go there? For me, it’s a mess.


    Things are getting worse in South America. My family is from Bolivia – that’s where my grandparents and most of my Uncles and Aunties are. I’m scared for my grandparents because they’re old and the government are not providing anything to help them, it doesn’t help the people. 


    And I can’t do anything for them from here – I can’t even send them money to buy some products because they live in a remote part of the country, and they’re not close to anything. Plus the prices of everything has been going up, and the availability has been going down.


    I’ve been here in London for one year and a half. I grew up in Spain and there, they’re actually taking more care of people. They provide them with more services, not like here, I don’t feel it here. Here you need to stay home, but you’re not obligated to say home. In Spain, if you go out – that’s it, you’re going to jail straight away, or you’ll need to pay a fine. The lock down’s been like that for weeks, even for months. Here it’s very relaxed, for example most people are going out in the parks. Alexandrea Palace is full of plastic bottles, cans, drinks. It’s so dirty. 

    Rachel – Volunteer Floor Manager


    I’m an artist, and a painter, but now I am running the floor here at the food bank. I’ve only been here for six weeks – I turned up and started as a regular volunteer and ended up in this role. I didn’t expect to find myself pulling around pallets and lifting crates and doing this job, but you know, it’s happened, it’s great and actually it’s been quite a blessing. Lo and behold, I’m wearing a vest, I have a walkie talkie and this is now my life!


    We have fresh herbs every day. There are fruit bags, and then we have huge sacks and pallets of potatoes and onions and cabbages and squash. It’s amazing stuff, the produce is gorgeous. 


    I think we like to think we are in control of things, and society tells us that we’re in control of things – but we’re not. And hopefully some good is going to come out of this.