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Donations keep CNJ food aid van rolling!

Big-hearted schools and businesses back the New Journal’s food project to help those facing struggle

29 October, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

Staff at Eleanor Palmer School with their Harvest donations

SCHOOLS, businesses and individuals across the borough have stepped up to help the New Journal’s food aid van project in an extraordinary show of community spirit amid the coronavirus crisis.

Their support meant we were this week able to drive the donations to help stock foodbanks and community centres, and reach the homes of people who are struggling to get by.

And our call for schools to help us collect ingredients and meals was again met with an amazing response and comes at a time when more and more people are realising the extent of food poverty.

Some isolated residents who have been shielding throughout much of the health crisis cannot get to the shops to buy food, while others have had their lives turned upside down by the virus and are struggling financially.

This week, pupils at William Ellis School in Parliament Hill Fields held a non-uniform day, raising £500 which was given to Kentish Town Community Centre’s food pantry service.

William Ellis School raised £500 for our aid project. Sarah Hoyle, from Kentish Town Community Centre, is pictured receiving the school’s cash donation from pupils Bobby Meola and Elijah Muhammad, and headteacher Izzy Jones

Centre co-ordinator Sarah Hoyle told the New Journal they had seen an alarming rise in need.

She added: “We had been delivering to around 30 families a week, but it is only getting worse. “It isn’t solely those who have previously been receiving benefits, it is people who have just lost their jobs, and people coming off furlough.”

Sixth-formers at La Swap have pledged their support by organising a weekly collection, and are volunteering to help us deliver donations. Headteacher Izzy Jones told the New Journal: “The school council decided they wanted to reach out to our community. One of their pledges, based on the idea of ‘More In Common’, a scheme created in memory of the late MP Jo Cox, has prompted them to look at what they can do. We are building on the local connections which we are very much part of.”

Another fantastic contribution saw scores of parents at Eleanor Palmer primary school in Kentish Town bring in bags packed with food as part of their annual Harvest Festival appeal.

This year, staff donated it to our food aid van and we took it to the Highgate Newtown Community Centre’s crisis response team, and the Islington Parent Carer Forum. Brookfield, Gospel Oak and St Christopher’s schools have also signed up to our playgrounds drive to collect donations.

As the political row over whether free school meals should continue over half-term, businesses responded to the concern that children may go hungry by offering to cook lunches for them.

Suzi Martin and Lucy Reese at Shakti Cafe in Fortune Green

These include the Shakti Cafe in Fortune Green, where owner Suzi Martin said the offer was extended to all children so no parent would feel any stigma in requesting a lunch based on their financial circumstances.

Ms Martin, who is a musician, events organiser and chef, says she has seen her own income disappear overnight due to Covid-19 – and so opened the Shakti Cafe with her colleague, Lucy Reese, this month. She added: “I have been lucky to be able to do this. I reached a point recently where I had no food and no money, so I understand how easy it is to end up in this situation. It has been destroying for many. I am fortunately back in work – but many aren’t.”

Cllr Luisa Porritt collects meals from Haverstock Tavern chef Jonathan Peaker

In Belsize Park, The Haverstock Tavern, Persian restaurant Tandis, Oliver’s fish and chips shop, The England’s Lane Cafe and The Steeles pub have all sent pre-cooked meals to families living in a hostel in England’s Lane. Joined by ward councillor Luisa Porritt, the New Journal Food Aid van helped with the deliveries to make sure no child went hungry.

Cllr Porritt said: “For some on particularly low incomes, the costs and time of shopping and cooking over half-term has been hard – some are single-parent families working shifts. “Many businesses have said they will help beyond this week. The hospitality sector has faced a triple whammy of lockdown, the 10pm curfew and Tier 2 restrictions, but they are still willing to help those in need.”

Haverstock Tavern chef Jonathan Peaker cooked 20 hearty meals of chicken, rice and vegetables.

He said: “We are determined no one in our community should go hungry, and want to help as much as we can. Myself and my colleagues are happy to put our own time, money and skills into doing what is right.”

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