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Forest Gate food bank initiative helping families who can’t access government support during pandemic

PUBLISHED: 17:48 12 August 2020 | UPDATED: 17:48 12 August 2020

Junaid Ali and a team of volunteers have been delivering grocery packs to the front doors of people in need of support in Forest Gate. Picture: Junaid Ali

Junaid Ali and a team of volunteers have been delivering grocery packs to the front doors of people in need of support in Forest Gate. Picture: Junaid Ali

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A food bank initative has been running in Forest Gate during the coronavirus pandemic to help people who can’t access any government support.

Community activist Junaid Ali at the Forest Gate community support base he set up in Katherine Road. Picture: Junaid AliCommunity activist Junaid Ali at the Forest Gate community support base he set up in Katherine Road. Picture: Junaid Ali

As the community went into lockdown, Katherine Road resident Junaid Ali knew a lot of people were badly affected financially from loss of jobs – especially those who were on zero hours contracts and did not benefit from the government’s furlough scheme.

There were many individuals and families who had leave to remain status with no recourse to public funding (NRPF), as well as international students, asylum seekers and other needy people for whom government support wasn’t available.

“Looking into the situation, I came with an idea to set up some type of support for such residents of Newham, who are in real need of support,” Junaid said.

“I formed a team consisting of my friends and, with mutual contributions as well as in coordination with some charities, we provided grocery support packages to hundreds of families and individuals at their doorsteps throughout the period of lockdown.”

Hundreds of grocery packages and hot meals have been distributed from a pick up point in Katherine Road, Forest Gate each Sunday since the start of July. Picture: Junaid AliHundreds of grocery packages and hot meals have been distributed from a pick up point in Katherine Road, Forest Gate each Sunday since the start of July. Picture: Junaid Ali

All told, thousands of packages have been delivered.

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As a community activist and Forest Gate resident of 20 years, Junaid knew of some NRPF families in need of support and, through word of mouth, they soon found others.

“Some people were really open that they needed groceries, but some because of their self-respect didn’t want to be open about that,” he said.

“We tried to deliver to them through other families they knew, so that they can keep their self-respect and we don’t have to know who they are.”

When lockdown rules began to ease from July 4, Junaid set up a community support pick up point in Katherine Road.

They have distributed grocery packages and hundreds of hot meals, including pizzas, every Sunday since.

“I am very thankful of my team members for their every type of support and enthusiastic, tireless efforts to come out and help the residents of Newham in this difficult time,” Junaid said.

“These efforts truly reflect the saying: ‘What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.’”


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