New scheme to help feed and advise hard up families

The Mayor John Biggs (right) pictured with Food Store CEO Masoom Ahmed (left,) and councillor Asma Islam (back.) Pic: Rehan Jamil

A new shop allowing hard up Tower Hamlets families access to affordable and healthy food has opened in Limehouse.

The affordable food scheme, based at The Food Store at Limborough House, enables eligible families to shop for their groceries at a fraction of the usual price. The scheme is a pilot project which will run until October 2021, after which Tower Hamlets Council hope to replicate it in other areas of the borough.

Members are referred based on need by partner agencies and housing associations. Residents pay a £3.50 weekly fee giving them access to the store. In return, they receive approximately £30 of groceries plus fresh fruit and vegetables.

Membership is dependent on continued engagement with support services offering debt management, wellbeing advice and employment support.

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “We’re delighted to see the community come together to ensure more residents can afford to eat a balanced diet.

“We continue to support families with an extended free school meals offer and our Tackling Poverty programme offers financial support and benefits advice to vulnerable residents.”

A local football club, Burdett Football Club is delivering the scheme, which is supported by housing association Poplar HARCA and funded by Tower Hamlets Council. The club has been working with local families in the area not just around community sports but other charitable activities in partnership with local voluntary organisations helping local families in need. Since the pandemic began, they have led the food distribution efforts in the area by running a food bank.

Babu Bhattacherjee, Director of Communities and Neighbourhoods at Poplar HARCA, said: “This is an important scheme for families in the borough and we are pleased to be able to provide support and free space for the local community through this partnership.”

“At Poplar HARCA our mission is to create opportunity and this service releases the strain of food poverty and offers members control, choice and a chance of progression. The end goal is strengthened communities with improved family finances and wellbeing” he added.

Volunteer filing the shelves at the shop. Pic: Rehan Jamil

Latest figures show that 40% of households in Tower Hamlets live in economic poverty, and 29,680 children, equivalent to 53% of the total number of children, are living in poverty, the highest rate in the UK

Food insecurity is a growing issue in the borough, particularly affecting single parents and the unemployed. Healthy food can be too expensive for low-income residents due to a lack of shops selling wholesome, affordable food within a reachable distance.

Masoom Ahmed, CEO of The Food Store said: “Our hope is that this pilot scheme succeeds in providing a holistic support to enable local people to weather the impact of food poverty and finally find the way out to happier and prosperous lives.”

“Residents are pleased with the integrated approach offered by the scheme. It’s about dignity, social cohesion, community and stability,” he told ELL.


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