Barbican residents supported the Hackney Foodbank at last year’s summer party and raised over £900.  Earlier this year, I went along to visit the hub of the Foodbank’s distribution network – the Warehouse in Cherbury Street, a 20 minute walk from the Barbican. Inside the work-worn 1960s building was a highly organised space humming with activity as volunteers and staff sorted new donations of food, toiletries, and cleaning materials into hundreds of green crates. 

The Hackney Foodbank has seven distribution centres throughout the Borough where less well-off individuals and families can collect food and other vital supplies, such as toiletries and personal hygiene products. The Warehouse is the centre of this network of support.

Volunteers collect donated food by van from collection points or donors deliver direct to the Warehouse. You may have seen the donation bin in Waitrose. The Foodbank has similar bins in many local businesses. Donors can even arrange a supermarket Shop and Drop direct to the Warehouse. 

Deliveries are sorted, weighed and then items are allocated to one of the seven distribution centres. 

Each distribution centre makes a weekly order depending on the number and type of customer they expect. This is a huge logistical exercise. Weekly consignments to each of the seven distribution centres equate to a full van, loaded with green crates. 

Customers arrive at the distribution centres; they must have a voucher code to access the Foodbank. These are issued by Hackney council and a huge number of local NGOs. 

“No one is turned away without some emergency food to tide them over until the next day when a voucher can be issued.” Shell Tran, communications manager

Customers receive an essential food parcel containing 3-days of complete meals for an individual or family, plus other necessities such as sanitary products and toiletries. But the Foodbank can only provide three of these packs to a beneficiary in any six month period. For longer term help, the Foodbank staff provide advice and signposting to other agencies. In 2021 the Foodbank received 233 tonnes of food donations. This enabled them to provide essential supplies to nearly 7,000 people. But the number of people in need is growing all the time. 

The Warehouse does not have freezers or chillers so donations must be dried and tinned foods, although some fresh fruit and veg – potatoes, onions, apples – can be kept at room temperature. At Christmas they had a donation of frozen turkeys so that families in Hackney could enjoy a proper Christmas dinner.

“Top donation item is tinned corned beef – doesn’t need cooking, can be stored at room temperature and meets most religious dietary requirements”. Andrew, warehouse supervisor

When I visited at the beginning of February 2023, demand for food parcels had more than doubled since before the start of the pandemic and food donations were half what they were in February 2022. In spite of the pressure, volunteers and staff in the Warehouse remained cheerfully upbeat. Over 70 volunteers help to keep the Foodbank operating. 

Nearly 90% of the food distributed is donated – but increasingly the Foodbank is having to supplement this by buying in essential supplies. This adds fundraising to the workload. In 2017, the Foodbank spent just £2,000 on buying food. This year they expect to spend £250,000, as conditions worsen for less well-off families. 

The Foodbank is dependent on donations, it does not receive any government funding. The Hackney Foodbank is part of the Trussell Trust Foodbank Network. If you would like to support the Hackney Foodbank, please see the panel below.

How can we help?

Become a volunteer

The Foodbank needs drivers as well as warehouse and distribution centre volunteers. If you have a full licence to drive manual vehicles the Foodbank would love to hear from you. If you have your own car and can pick up donations from Waitrose Barbican once a week that would save the Foodbank a congestion charge.