Borehamwood Foodbank is one of many social action projects in the Diocese of Westminster to receive financial support from Caritas Westminster during the COVID-19 pandemic. Located at St Teresa’s Church, Borehamwood, the food bank was founded in 2013 by a group of local churches and community groups. The project has received ongoing support from Caritas Westminster since its inception, in the form of project grants from the St John Southworth Caritas Fund. In 2019, the project was awarded £22,500 from this fund, to be paid over three years. In recent weeks, Borehamwood Foodbank has benefited from the Caritas Emergency Food Voucher Scheme, as well as a COVID-19 Emergency Project Grant. These two financial initiatives were launched by Caritas Westminster in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The food bank has also received a grant from this year’s Cardinal’s Appeal to improve its food storage facilities.
In April 2020, Caritas Westminster sent out £31,000 in emergency food vouchers, to be distributed by schools and parishes in the Diocese of Westminster. The parishes and schools that participated in the scheme each received £500 in supermarket vouchers. The scheme has been extended for a second round, with many parishes and schools receiving a further £500 in vouchers and some new participants benefiting from the scheme for the first time. Volunteers at Borehamwood Foodbank have used these vouchers to provide a shopping and delivery service for families experiencing food poverty, who are unable to get out during the pandemic.
Fr Dominic McKenna, Parish Priest at St Teresa of the Child of Jesus, Borehamwood, said:
‘The vouchers have helped us get to many of the families the schools were worried about. We were able to get them fresh food which has made a great difference.’
‘They were great for the families who had to have the food delivered. We had a dedicated group of shoppers and they also delivered the food. It was great to be able to give the families exactly what they asked for.’
In addition to the food vouchers, Borehamwood Food Bank has received a COVID-19 Emergency Project Grant of £500 from Caritas Westminster to help the project respond to heightened need during the pandemic. Borehamwood Foodbank has allocated this money towards providing small fuel grants for those who are struggling to cover the costs of cooking, heating and lighting in their homes.
Since the start of the crisis, the food bank has seen a steep increase in the number of people using its service, as individuals and families feel the financial impact of job insecurity and school closures. The increase in need is reflected in the number of food packs the project has distributed since lockdown started. These food packs provide each person in a family unit with enough food for three days. Between 17th March and 27th May 2020, the food packs provided food for 818 adults and 735 children, a total of 1553 people. As a comparison, in the same period in 2019, the food packs provided food for 337 adults and 216, a total of 553 people.
Following school closures, Borehamwood Foodbank has also provided weekly lunch packs for families with children. In total, 400 lunch packs have been handed out on a regular basis to approximately 25 different families. This weekly lunch pack initiative is an extension of Borehamwood Foodbank’s holiday food project. In ordinary times, the food bank tackles holiday hunger by hosting community lunches during the school holidays, where families can share a meal together, learn cooking skills and take food home with them. As these events cannot currently take place due to the pandemic, the weekly lunch packs offer a way of responding to child hunger while school closures are in place. Caritas Westminster has worked closely with Borehamwood Foodbank to respond to holiday hunger in the diocese. The community lunches at Borehamwood became a model for the Caritas Food Collective, launched in October 2019, which has worked in partnership with parishes and schools to create six more ‘holiday clubs’ in the Diocese of Westminster.
Speaking about Caritas Westminster’s support, Kristan Payne, trustee at Borehamwood Foodbank, said:
‘Borehamwood Foodbank would like to thank Caritas for their support right from our inception. We have always felt that Caritas has given us full support not only financially but with their interest and enthusiasm. The services that we have been able to provide for those most needy in our society have been enriched by your input.’