Deptford food bank launches “life and death” crowdfunding appeal to stay open

Ray Woolford (middle) co-founder of We Care food bank. Pic: Ray Woolford

Rising energy bills and declining donations have left a Deptford food bank struggling to keep its doors open.

We Care food bank is appealing to the public through a crowdfunding page, supported by former prime minister Gordon Brown, to raise the money that will help keep the hub open for the year ahead.

Ray Woolford, co-founder of the food bank, told Eastlondonlines: “It’s not about eating and heating anymore, it’s truly about life and death.”

Woolford explained that some of the major issues the charity has faced include sharp rises in rent and food prices, the shrinking amount of donations and the growing demand in the community.

“The numbers of people coming through our doors and the demographic has changed dramatically. It’s increased by about 28%, if not more,” he said.

“The people that used to donate are now having to use a food bank because they do not have the money to eat themselves”.

Woolford revealed that the food bank pays a commercial rent for their premises to a private landlord and because of the “diversity of the charity” they haven’t been unable to claim support with costs from the local council support schemes.

“Our charity will help anyone in crisis and because of that unfortunately we can’t get funding… our ethos is to help everyone and anyone, which doesn’t necessarily tick the boxes of the checklists of the available funding schemes given out by the council”.

According to the crowdfunding page, We Care payed £68 in energy bills this February, which jumped to £198 in March, and this month the costs have jumped to £498. The projected bill for next year has soared from less than £700 to a figure in the high thousands, which Ray explains is far from what they can afford at the moment.

“We are a charity, you know, we live hand to mouth, we don’t have profits like many other charities, and we surely don’t have reserves” he adds.

Serving an average of 3,900 people and catering to all sorts of specific needs such as halal, kosher, vegan, dairy free and lactose-free, We Care has been a pillar for the community and surrounding boroughs for the last eight years.

Ray (red glasses) with volunteer team. Photo: Ray Woolford

Woolford says: “The survival of this food bank is so important, because the numbers that we help… they’re not mere numbers or people, they become friends.”

“I’m a man that’s seen it all, and there’s often days I go home crying. You can’t not get emotionally attached to people that have gone days without gas or electricity. And people that go days without eating, and mums that tell you that if it wasn’t for us, they’d kill themselves.”

Former Pprime minister Gordon Brown, who has been vocal about supporting We Care on Twitter, has urged people to support the charity with their council tax rebates.

Brown has been in direct contact with the charity and has been instrumental in helping the food bank get back on its feet, Woolford said.

“If Mr Brown’s intervention didn’t happen, we probably would have gone bust,” he sad.

The crowdfunding page has now raised around £12,000. We Care is aiming to raise £25,000 to be able to survive until next year.

More info on the crowdfunding page here.

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