“More people will die of poverty in the UK than will ever die of Covid,” says Raymond Woolford in his new documentary Feeding Lewisham: Foodbank in crisis.
Released this week the 12-minute film that centres on work volunteers do at the “We care” food bank, tackles issues on poverty, rent increase, and food scarcity.
The production, though short, also highlights the hard-working volunteers who gave up their time during this year’s epidemic. Woolford and Barbra Raymond, co-founders of We Care, came up with the idea of making a documentary about their service after the pandemic hit.
Woolford said: “I wanted to show what people could do as a community when governments and councils failed to act on behalf of residents.” He added: “If anybody suddenly found themselves in a crisis, after watching this they would know who to call.”
The two make regular appearances throughout the film, discussing the distribution, and process they, along with a dedicated team of members, embarked on to help Lewisham’s most vulnerable residents.
The food bank ran from a base in Deptford for about seven years before “an increase in rent went from £7,500-32,000.” This was the deciding factor as to why they moved says Woolford. “We couldn’t justify the price.”
Now mobile, the charity mostly “operates from people’s front rooms and kitchens.”
The periods between March and August saw a drastic increase in the amount of service users the charity were supporting.
As Woolford explains in his documentary: “Before corona kicked off we were feeding between 25 to 30 vulnerable families.” That number exponentially grew to almost 5000 during the summer period, with 170 volunteers who were also recruited to help.
Because of the diversity of We Care’s client base funding seemed to be one of the critical issues that were identified within the film. Woolford says: “It has been a real battle feeding the numbers we do.”
Cara Bowen, a freelance documentarian and television producer, oversaw the small project. She said: “I heard about the plan through Twitter and wanted to get involved. There were a couple of other producers that were already participating but because I had a camera kit, I and another director filmed it. I got the editor, music designer and colourist, all who worked on the project for free.
Bowen added: “I wanted to help out my community and was able to offer my skills and equipment, neither of which I was using! I also felt very passionate about the subject, I think the overall message we wanted to convey was poverty. Poverty is the real issue here and COVID has thrown light onto it. Money is being tossed at COVID without trying to find solutions to the systemic problems that have affected our communities for generations, especially people of colour. Without much help from the councils or government, communities have come together to provide for those in need, and that’s what Ray’s documentary really emphasises.”
For Woolford, Feeding Lewisham reminds us of an uncomfortable truth, that a legacy of austerity and unemployment has contributed towards. Woolford says: “If we didn’t get the food delivery that we get from Fair share, people would be starving to death and that would be the story you’d be hearing about not corona deaths.”
Kenneth, a local elderly resident who appeared within the short film provided an example in real-time of how an effective “buddy system” helped residents and volunteers establish a closer relationship throughout isolation.
The method aimed to ensure that the volunteers and clients could work together to communicate a tailored level of care, “and a somewhat social network that went beyond Corona” says Woolford.
Barbara as mentioned within the film had been running food banks “before they were even called food banks”. A well-trusted member of the community and upstanding activist. Barbara displayed a level of selflessness and compassion that was carried throughout the documentary. Her good deeds as Woolford said, “made her the go-to person to ask for help because people trusted her.”
Now released, the short film hopes to make an appearance at local festivals with the intent to raise awareness on food poverty and generate enough interest to secure funding for future filming. Woolford hopes to expand this initiative to a new location. Kath’s place, a community shop on 50 Friendly Street recently opened its doors this month.
The shop will be set to offer anyone from a low-income family the opportunity to apply for a membership, with full access to a variety of services. The centre will also host reading and writing workshops that will facilitate a library, kitchen, charity shop, and equipment area for online support.