Ukrainian refugees grateful for help from Foodbanks

Charity / Mon 19th Dec 2022 at 02:08pm

LEN Doree (pictured) remembers the first time a Ukrainian refugee entered St Paul’s church in the town centre to use the Harlow’s low cost food project in the food bank reports a Local Democracy Reporter.

Despite having three children, the woman only asked for two apples and when Len gave her six, she burst into tears.

“She said ‘I wasn’t expecting anyone to be so kind’,” he told the LDRS. “And that’s not the first time I’ve had tears and people want to thank me all the time. It’s not me, it’s the community that does it.”

Having volunteered at Harlow Foodbank for seven years, the former butcher often finishes a stint in A&E at Princess Alexandra Hospital, which made headlines for its 13-hour waits, before starting at the Bounty Club, a low cost food project run by the Michael Roberts Charitable Trust (MCRT).

Today, the grandchildren of the post-war generation who came to Harlow from blizted east London are growing up in the town. Charity workers and councillors told the LDRS of the strength of community in Harlow and how much it’s needed in times of hardship.

According to Harlow District Council, 46 Ukrainian households are living in Harlow and their sponsors have been given information packs outlining all the support available.

‘Neighbour helping neighbour’

Food bank general manager Patrick Coppeard says despite the hardship, the community is pulling together.

Contrary to some instances of people giving less due to their own pressures, Harlow Foodbank received three times as much food from Tesco’s Trussell Trust collection this year than last year – just over ten tonnes.

“We called it neighbour helping neighbour,” he said. “We were very encouraged by it because you feel like you’re all in it together.”

At the Bounty Club, people can pay £2.50 for up to £30 worth of food, largely fresh vegetables and meat which would otherwise go to waste.

According to Mr Coppeard, between 600-700 people use it every week. When it opened in May, 500 people were expected. So far it’s fed 2,100.

“You only have to walk past St Paul’s and the queues are just absolutely shocking,” says Chris Vince, a Harlow councillor.

Besides leading the council’s Labour group, currently in opposition, Cllr Vince (Little Parndon and Hare Street) is a charity worker, previously at Streets2Homes and now at Action For Family Carers.

He said schools are having to set up breakfast clubs to cope with need and teachers are reporting seeing parents moved to temporary accommodation, unable to afford rent. He also claims the crisis has resulted in increases in rough sleeping and pressures on health services.

He said: “We’ve got a section of people who are in that middle that are just about surviving. And they’re moving into the situation where they’re not.”

A town of two halves

“We remain concerned that those who are the least well-off in the town are not going to get the chance to avail new opportunities,” said Andy Thornton, CEO of the MRCT, which runs the food bank and Bounty Club, and chair of the Harlow Poverty Alliance.

“We might have a town of two halves, the mobile and commuting, managerial classes, and the unsupported lower-skilled workforce.”

Mr Thornton says new businesses have already moved into places like the innovation Park, but the benefit doesn’t always trickle down.

Additionally, he says the business model for houses of multiple occupancy has been hit by rising costs, with landlords selling up and displacing people as a result.

Charities in the town do what they can to respond to these problems, says Andy. A new warm bank is opening in the old BHS store, alongside Harlow Playhouse, the Latton Bush Centre, churches and libraries.

But Mr Thornton recognises the community cannot solve the crisis alone. He said: “If you feel you can’t cope and then you spend your day in a cold dark house and are only eating food provided to you by emergency services like the food bank, it’s nigh impossible to keep your motivations up. 

“We really aren’t helping people progress, we’re just keeping them at a level of survival unless we can do more. We hope we can.”

Harlow Council said information about support is available via its website. A spokesperson said in a statement: “We know it is a difficult time for everyone with the rise in the cost of living. It is really important that residents reach out for help as soon as they are worried about money and bills.”

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3 Comments for Ukrainian refugees grateful for help from Foodbanks:

Terry Elliston
2022-12-19 15:56:44

Is there anywhere in Harlow that is still collecting clothes for the Ukrainian Refugees? When this horrendous war first started there was a drop off place at the Council offices in Harlow.

2022-12-20 01:02:45

Instead of relying on them people should learn how to cook properly.

Mr Grumpy
2022-12-20 10:44:35

Grafter. What a daft response !! Cooking still need ingredients. Where will they come from if someone does not have enough money to buy them in the first place?

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