Hounslow Community FoodBox was set up in 2012 and started delivering emergency food to those in need from April 2013. We are a volunteer run registered charity (2016). The service was set up in response to the rising number of people facing poverty in the London Borough of Hounslow. The reasons for poverty are varied and often are a result of ill health, unemployment, family breakdown, zero-based working hours, or simply when something goes wrong in a person’s life and it takes time to find a solution.
The inspiration for developing a service to provide food, support, advice, and volunteering opportunities enabling people to get back into work, was the vision of Cllr. Steve Curran now Leader of the London Borough of Hounslow and Cllr. Ruth Cadbury now Brentford & Isleworth MP. A start up grant and premises was provided by the London Borough of Hounslow, and their continued support and guidance is highly valued by the charity.
"Whilst it’s so sad that FoodBox continues to be needed to support so many people, especially during the pandemic, it’s heart-warming the way our community has come together to help those in crisis."
"In the 21st century in the UK, foodbanks like FoodBox shouldn’t be needed. But as they are I thank all those who donate and volunteer at FoodBox, supporting those in the borough without the money to buy life’s basic essentials. Thank you!"
The FoodBox service was created to help prevent poverty and support those in a time of need with both essential food supplies and assistance to get their lives back on track. Each year the number of people supported by FoodBox has increased, and the many success stories continue to inspire and encourage our volunteers to give even more time and personal support.
The London Borough of Hounslow was one of the pilot areas that introduced Universal Credit for those receiving benefits. As with any new system or changes there were teething problems related to the time it took to process claims and start payment, which at the peak was some 16 weeks. Alongside that many people faced having benefits sanctioned for failing to meet the new requirements, and families already on benefits and transferred to the new Universal Credit system saw their income fall. We experienced many users of the service getting into debt and needing emergency food and support. Universal Credit is now well established and timescales for applicants reduced to under six weeks meaning users are less likely to get into the position of having their payments delayed or stopped.
FoodBox has evolved into an important and vital part of the community, supporting those in need across the London Borough of Hounslow. Our service has been flexible and agile, reflecting the feedback and changing needs of both the clients we support and our referral partners. Working with key partners ensures that not only can we provide emergency food, but we can signpost those seeking support and advice to additional services in the borough. At FoodBox we are proud of the personal and confidential service that we offer to anyone in need of help and support.
Due to the current situation with COVID-19, referrals have increased by over 300%. In 2020 we have as many referrals in one week as we did in an average month in 2019.
To manage this increased demand we took on additional premises at the Rose Community Centre, in Brentford. This larger space allows us to provide greater support to the community whilst ensuring the safety and welfare of our volunteers and clients, meeting the recommended social distancing guidelines.
FoodBox volunteers deliver food parcels to those unable to collect them due to health and mobility issues. By the end of November 2020 the team have supported more than 5,000 adults and children - that's an incredible 100,000 meals.
The generous response from our community has been truly heart-warming enabling FoodBox to fulfil so many referrals in these unprecedented times. Our core team of volunteers has also grown, filled with members of our local community keen to help those less fortunate. Individuals, entire streets, apartment blocks, schools, community and religious organisations and businesses have collected and donated food and toiletries to help meet the continuing needs or contributed by financial donation.
FoodBox services – next steps
COVID-19 has been a challenging time and FoodBox has risen and met the challenge, but we know that recovery will be long and our services needed to support all those affected.
Many people have lost their jobs and income as a direct result of COVID-19, and previously they may never have had to seek support from the state or a charity. A key objective of FoodBox is to ensure we reach and support those who are concerned about putting food on the table and offer advice and support in confidential and understanding ways. We work closely with the Council’s Community Hub which offers a central triage service for those in need of support. It ensures people are directed to and receive the right professional advice and support, including referral to FoodBox.
Over the coming months FoodBox will be introducing new systems to improve the frontline service of providing both food and programmes, with tailored support and advice, to people in need. We will be able to recognise and identify the key needs of all vulnerable adults and families, and offer a more targeted service in a timely and effective manner.
Our commitment to the health and wellbeing of everyone we support has seen FoodBox review our food offering with a focus on supplying dairy produce and an increase in fresh food to supplement non-perishable foods. A dietary advisor will be helping us to maximise the nutritional value of our food parcels, which is key to supporting personal wellbeing whilst encouraging a healthy and balanced diet.
FoodBox is a learning organization, and the feedback we receive from our clients and referral partners continues to help us shape our service.
How you can help
It’s this incredible support from so many individuals and organisations that enable us to offer continued support to those in need. We’d like to thank each and every one of you that support us for your kindness and as we say at FoodBox, a little help can go a long way.
"I am very proud of the role and support that the Hounslow Community FoodBox offers to those in need. Having a volunteer led service with no paid employees is a total credit to the brilliant community we have and the dedication of residents to volunteer and play a key role in supporting others. It is very sad that we continue to need the service but we must always be there to help the most vulnerable in our community. Time has shown that poverty can affect anyone and our safety net is critical to support those facing hardship."